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A major survey shows a decade of decline in youth mental health

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Australians have reported a steep decline in their mental health over the last decade, with the sharpest drops among young Australians.
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Australians have reported a steep decline in their mental health over the last decade, with the sharpest drops among young Australians.

That’s according to the latest edition of a major survey conducted by the University of Melbourne, which has tracked a group of more than 13,000 Australians since 2001.

About the survey

The figures come from the University of Melbourne’s ‘Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia’ Survey (HILDA).

HILDA has tracked the same group of over 13,000 Australians since 2001 (with an extra 4,000 added in 2011, and including any children of the original participants). Each year, they are asked an extended series of questions about their lives. The latest results, published last week, are from 2020 – the 20th year of the survey.

Mental health

The survey measures mental health using an internationally-recognised questionnaire, which results in a score between 0 (lowest) and 100 (highest).

Since 2011, the average score for men has fallen by 2.8 points, from 74.9 to 72.1.

The average score for women has fallen by 4.4 points, from 73.3 to 68.9.

Youth mental health

For those aged 15-24, the average mental health score fell by 9.4 points (on a 100-point scale).

For those aged 25-34, the average score fell 6 points.

Mental health has fallen for these age cohorts in almost every year since 2011, and fell sharply in the first year of the pandemic in 2020.

Other cohorts

First Nations people recorded lower mental health scores (64.6) compared to non-First Nations people (71).

Other groups with below average scores included unemployed people (61.9), people in financial stress (62.3), people in poor general health (54.0), single people (66.5), and people with few social contacts (64.6).

Lifeline: 13 11 14

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