People shopping in the Iso Omena shopping centre in Espoo. LEHTIKUVA

Health & wellbeing

According to a recent press release, researchers at the University of Turku in Finland have found that poverty is causing stress in young people. The researchers conducted the first-ever writing competition in Finland that focused on children and young people's experiences with poverty. They received a significant number of submissions in which young people wrote about their inability to consume like their peers, the effects of the energy crisis, inflation, and stress related to poverty.

The responses from the young people surprised the researchers, who noted that they were shocked at how many young people, regardless of gender, wrote about their inability to consume like their peers. The cost of energy and inflation were also mentioned in most of the essays. More than half of the young people wrote about stress related to poverty, which was alarming. Even more wrote about negative feelings related to poverty. The researchers noted that every piece of writing, regardless of length, was crucial to their research into young people's experiences of poverty.

Some of the young people's essays included statements like "It makes me sad to ask my mother for anything because she always says she doesn't have any money. Sometimes I avoid hanging out with friends so they don't find out that I'm poor," and "As a child, I already knew we were poor. At six years old, I was stressed about our financial situation. I knew then that I couldn't get what I wanted, even though my mother wanted to give it to me. In the store, we always chose the cheapest option, and sometimes items were removed at the checkout because we couldn't afford them."

The researchers noted that they were happy to receive submissions from young people as young as fifteen. They also said that they were happy to receive shorter submissions because it was evident that writing was not necessarily easy for young people.

Previously, the Arkipäivän kokemuksia köyhyydestä (Everyday Experiences of Poverty) survey had targeted adult respondents. At that time, the respondents were believed to be affluent poor people who were capable of expressing their experiences in writing. The researchers said that some of the young people's essays were like that, but most were not. Therefore, they believe they have reached the voices of young people who are not being heard in their society.