Mental health of young Australians improving despite COVID-19

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the mental health and wellbeing of young Australians has improved dramatically, according to new analysis by researchers at the Australian National University (ANU).

Over the past two years, the ANU Center for Social Research and Methods has conducted several rounds of a COVID Impact Surveillance Survey to examine the effect of the pandemic on key subgroups of the Australian population.

In much-needed good news, its latest survey of more than 3,500 people found that Australians aged 18-24 feel more positive about their lives and their future and experience less psychological distress.

“We found a large and significant turnaround in the number of young Australians who said their lives and wellbeing were improving, particularly compared to Australians aged 45 to 64,” says the co-author of the report. study, Professor Nicholas Biddle, Associate Director of the ANU Center for Social. Research and methods.
“More than two in three (67.4%) of young Australians said their life had improved over the past 12 months. This was also the age group with the greatest improvement in life satisfaction. regard to life since our April 2022 survey.
“We also found a 5% drop in psychological distress among Australians aged 18 to 24. This is the age group reporting the largest drop in psychological distress.”


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These levels of psychological distress, while still higher than pre-pandemic levels, are far lower than in 2020 when COVID-19 first took hold in Australia.

And although young Australians continued to have the highest level of psychological distress of any age group, compared to pre-COVID levels, this remains encouraging news according to Biddle.

Credit: Solskin/Getty Images

“Young people have been the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, particularly in terms of their economic security, future prospects, mental health and wellbeing,” he explains. -he. “It is therefore encouraging to see that the majority of young Australians say they are feeling much better than 12 months ago, even though they still face continued pandemic pressures.”

The researchers collected longitudinal data from a series of surveys of the same group of individuals, just before COVID-19, and then eleven times since COVID began to impact Australia.

Overall, they found that levels of life satisfaction have steadily increased since January 2022, and levels of psychological distress have also steadily decreased between October 2021 and August 2022, for all Australians.


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“In May 2020, around half of Australians thought their life was worse (51.3%), including 6.5% who thought it was much worse,” says Biddle. “In August 2022, only around one in five Australians thought their life had gotten worse in the 12 months since August 2021, with just 3.9% believing their life had gotten much worse.

“And in October 2021, 27.2% of adult Australians said they felt hopeless at least some of the time. By August 2022, that figure had fallen to 22.3%, a drop of around 981,000 Australian adults.

But according to Biddle, that does not mean Australia is back to pre-pandemic levels of wellbeing and mental health.

“Life satisfaction was lower in August 2022 than in October 2019. There are also even more Australians who have high levels of psychological distress,” he explains. “However, wellbeing and mental health outcomes have improved over the past few months as lockdown conditions have eased significantly, and despite high case numbers.”



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