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Purpose-Built Student Accommodation Boosts Wellbeing, New Study Shows

What if where you live could actually improve your mental health? According to a recent study, this might be the case for those living in purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA).

The 2024 Gen Z Wellbeing Index, conducted by Year13 in partnership with Scape, Australia’s largest PBSA provider, highlights the positive impact of dedicated student housing on youth wellbeing.

Mental health challenges facing Gen Z

The study surveyed over 3,000 young people living in Australia aged 18-24, including 1,000 Scape residents, to examine their mental health, exercise, sleep and diet patterns. The findings indicate that more than half of Gen Z are actively seeking mental health therapy, addressing widespread anxiety and depression.

Despite these efforts, issues such as body dysmorphia (21%), ADHD (27%) and a general lack of purpose (65%) remain prevalent. Other key findings from the study include:

  • Sleep: 69% of young Australians reported not getting enough sleep.
  • Anxiety: 56% of respondents suffer from anxiety.
  • Social connections: 40% struggle to make friends, and 35% feel lonely.
  • Physical health: 67% don’t spend enough time outdoors, 64% don’t eat enough healthy food, and 61% are not physically active enough.
  • Family and friends: 49% don’t connect enough with friends, and 46% don’t connect enough with family.

The study also identified top negative influences on youth wellbeing, such as the rising cost of living (53%) and burnout (51%). Violence against women (53%) emerged as a significant concern, following cost of living (77%) and housing affordability (63%).

Benefits of living in PBSA

The research shows that students residing in Scape’s purpose-built accommodations experience better mental health and social connections compared to their peers. Scape residents reported lower levels of anxiety (35% vs. 56%), depression (17% vs. 35%), and loneliness (25% vs. 35%). Additionally, they felt a stronger sense of belonging (77% vs. 69%) and social health (17% vs. 13%).

Anouk Darling, CEO of Scape Australia, emphasised the intentional efforts behind Scape’s support programs, which include wellbeing courses, fitness and nutrition programs, and social events. “We provide a safe haven – a place to call home, but also a place to live well,” she said.

Community initiatives and programs

Scape’s initiatives, such as the Safe TALK peer-to-peer suicide prevention workshops and Velocity Empowerment workshops, aim to foster healthy physical, emotional, and mental relationships. In the first half of 2024 alone, Scape hosted over 500 student events, attended by more than 10,000 students, significantly enhancing social connectedness among residents.

Scape’s dedicated Safety & Wellbeing App by Sonder saw a 533% year-on-year increase in usage, highlighting the growing engagement of residents with these proactive wellbeing measures.

Resources and hotlines for support

If you’re struggling with mental health issues or need someone to talk to, here are some resources and hotlines:

  • Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14 (24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention)
  • Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636 (support for anxiety and depression)
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25)
  • Headspace: Visit the website for mental health services and support for young people

Read more: Mental Health Support in Australia: Signs to Look Out For and Where to Go for Help