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The health of “emerging adults” in Australia: freedom, risk and rites of passage

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To the Editor: I wish to thank Kang for her editorial on the health of “emerging adults”, articulating experience familiar to those who care for young people.1 The overview should be read in conjunction with Kang’s contributions as a senior co-editor of Youth health and adolescent medicine, which I reviewed in the Journal last year.2

The student health services developed in our universities during the past 50 years resemble facilities elsewhere; more than first-aid posts, they teach us to respect and cherish young people who seek help and spur us to find the best ways to work with them. Encounters with students may begin with consultations about everyday problems, but well managed sore throats and sprained ankles can be door openers for more serious questions.

An accepting environment encourages the exploration of personal concerns, many of them related to what Kang recognises as “The widening gap between biological and psychosocial maturation”. Student health workers become aware that young people often need simply to talk to accepting older people, which an appropriate attitude can facilitate.

Kang’s editorial waves a flag for the uniqueness of young people and challenges us to address a critical transitional period with thoughtful research and imagination.