Almost half of young women in Australia are living with mental illness

mental illness

Mental health experts have repeatedly warned of a “shadow pandemic” of mental health disorders, as new data from shows this to be especially true for young women.

The National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing provides a country-wide snapshot of the prevalence and impact of mental health conditions in the community.

Conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), it’s the first of its kind in 15 years and shows that mental health disorders have surged among Australia’s youth, with young women having the highest rates.

The ABS found that nearly two in five people aged 16 to 24 had a mental disorder in 2020-21 and for females specifically, it was one in four (24.6 per cent). Findings also showed that women experienced higher rates of anxiety disorders than men at 21 per cent compared to 12.4 per cent.

Almost half of Australians identifying as LGBTQI+ had also experienced symptoms of a mental health disorder in 2020-2021.

Dr Ruth Vine, the federal government’s deputy chief medical officer for mental health, says that the levels of distress in young people, especially anxiety, were “puzzling people around the world”, and that it pre-dated Covid. She cited social media as a concern for young people but said that global concerns were also a factor.

The Covid-19 crisis had large effects on collective health, with one in five Australians reporting a mental health disorder during the first two years of the pandemic, including 3.3 million people with anxiety disorders.

Speaking to the higher rates of mental health disorders among women and their correlation to the effects of Covid-19, Chief executive of the Australian Psychological Society, Dr Zena Burgess, says, “Typically, women are more likely to have additional stress on top of the pandemic, such as more housework, poverty, job insecurity, sexual abuse and family violence.”

“The combination of these factors makes it far more likely that women disproportionately suffer from anxiety and mental health disorders than men.”

While women of all ages were at higher risk for all mental illnesses – other than substance abuse – compared to men, the survey also found that women were more likely to seek help for their mental health, with 55 per cent reporting they see a mental health professional.

The ability to seek professional help is imperative to mending this mental health crisis and Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Emma McBride, says that demand for mental health support has surged to record levels across the country. Continue reading

Additional reading

News category: Analysis and Comment.

Tags: ,