Two-thirds of parents say exam stress is affecting children’s mental health

students taking exam

One-third of parents of teens say their children have lost sleep, and nearly one in ten have sought healthcare advice

As exam season gets underway, with GCSEs, A Levels and SATs, a survey of over 1,500 Mumsnet parents shows the impact they have on children.

Two thirds (65%) of parents with children aged 13 or over say exam pressure is affecting children’s mental health, with one in ten (11%) parents of children aged 13 or over saying it affects their own children’s wellbeing ‘severely’.

Over a third (36%) of parents with children aged 13 or over say their children have lost sleep through worry or anxiety about results, while 9% say their child has visited a GP or other healthcare professional because of symptoms associated with stress or anxiety.

This issue doesn’t only affect teenagers. One-fifth (20%) of parents who have school-aged children say that their child has been in tears because of results, pressure or stress.

When asked which factors cause stress to their children, 31% cited ‘pressure to achieve good results at school’ – significantly more than those who picked pressures associated with social media networks (6%), and also more than those who selected ‘bullying’ (22%) or ‘stressful situations at home or within the family’ (26%). The only factor considered to cause more stress to children is 'upset within friendship groups', cited by 64%.

When asked what they think would help their children deal with the pressure associated with exams, parents said:

  • a supportive family (61%);
  • support from teachers and other school staff (47%);
  • spending time outdoors in natural surroundings (44%); and
  • spending time with friends (40%).

Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts said: “Many teenagers claim to be supremely unbothered about exam results, but parents often know better and there seems to be a groundswell of concern about the amount of pressure young people are under. Academic success is important, but it isn’t everything, and the advice from Mumsnet users parents is to take the pressure off by encouraging them to unwind after each exam and reminding them that all they need to do is their best.”

Read the full data here.

May 2019