Mental health issues more common among young…


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The latest health survey by the Bureau of Statistics indicates that younger Australians are more likely to be anxious and depressed, as well as to binge drinking and vaping.

Nearly 19% of people aged 15-24 will experience anxiety and 14% will experience depression in 2020-21, according to the latest National Health Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Monday.

These numbers have steadily declined as people get older, and by the time Australians turned 75, just over 7% had anxiety and the same percentage had depression.

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It was a “perfect storm” that hit people when they were young, said Patrick McGorry, executive director of youth mental health organization Orygen and professor of youth mental health at the University of Melbourne.

He said that “every disorder” from anxiety and depression to eating disorders rose from puberty to peak when people were in their 20s. “It’s a combination of biological, social and economic factors.”

People are becoming adults, dealing with getting out of the house, finding their identities, trying to start their careers and finding an intimate partner.

“There is a lot of stress in development, and the body and brain are still developing in the physical sense,” McGorrie said.

“And the [there are] Headwinds such as epidemics, climate change, world wars and wealth transfers… from the young to the baby boomer generation. They cannot buy homes and are under great financial pressure.”

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On top of all of that, McGurry said, young people are “too old for child services and too early for adult services.” He said Headspace – where he was a founding board member – had developed a blueprint to overcome this problem but needed funding to expand it.

He hopes the money will come from whoever wins the May elections. “I feel like I’m pushing a door open,” he said.

The ABS report found that 10.7% of adults were daily smokers. For those aged 18 to 24, the rate was 8.3%. While 83.3% of the younger age group had never smoked, 21.7% had tried vaping compared to less than 10% of adults overall. This was the first time the ABS system had surveyed people’s vaping habits.

Young people can easily get both nicotine and non-nicotine vapors online, both of which are harmful, and are aggressively marketed, said Laura Bajorney, a spokeswoman for the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.

“Social media marketing around vaping has been really aggressive and targeting young people,” she said.

The ABS survey also found that one in four Australians drink too much.

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One in three men drinks more than 10 regular drinks per week, compared to about one in five women.

People in the 18 to 24 age group were less likely than average to have had more than ten drinks in the past week, but were more likely to have had five or more drinks on any given day at least once a month.

Bajorny said this is consistent with “frequent excessive drinking.”

The tragedy is that this kind of excessive alcohol consumption is linked to some of the most common causes of death among young people – accidents and injuries including drowning and car crashes.

“We know that alcohol consumption is the second major modifiable risk factor for suicide and self-harm in men.”

It also found that nearly eight in 10 Australians had a long-term health condition. Mentioned conditions include cancer, diabetes, and asthma, as well as nearsightedness or farsightedness, hay fever, and allergies.

Of the 78.6% of people who reported a case in 2020-2021, nearly half had a chronic condition.

The data was collected differently for 2020-21, and cannot be compared to previous years, ABS said.


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