Why 79 is the magic number

New data from research company Roy Morgan shows over 7.9 million Australians aged over 14 now suffer from a mental health condition.

“Roy Morgan’s extensive research into the health of Australians shows mental health conditions are increasing significantly across the spectrum, up over 2.5 million from a decade ago” said Roy Morgan chief Michelle Levine.

Perhaps surprisingly though, those in their 70s have the best mental health, according to the latest Roy Morgan Single Source survey on health research which is based on a program spanning more than a decade and health data from over 50,000 Australians.

“A deep dive into the data shows that mental health conditions increase significantly for older teenagers completing their secondary schooling and entering university, or the workplace, for the first time aged under 25 years old. There is a secondary peak for Australians in their 40s when many parents will themselves be living in a household with teenagers and dealing with living expenses including mortgage repayments and expensive secondary school fees,” said Ms Levine.

“The good news is that once Australians hit their 50s rates of mental health conditions decline rapidly and stress in particular is ‘lifted off the shoulders’ of Australians in their 50s and 60s.

“Our decade long research shows that rates of mental health conditions are lowest for Australians in their mid-late 70s with over 80 per cent of Australians aged 74-79 years old reporting ‘no’ mental health conditions at all – a higher rate than any other age group.”

The most common mental health conditions recorded were stress which is experienced by 5.8 million Australians (28 per cent), anxiety suffered by over 4.3 million (21.1 per cent), depression which afflicts over 3.3 million (16.1 per cent) and the nearly 1.3 million (6.2 per cent) who have panic attacks.

The largest raw increase was for anxiety which has more than doubled since 2011 with an increase of nearly 2.3 million to over 4.3 million Australians – an increase of 108.3 per cent.

Stress increased by 1.6 million (38.2 per cent), depression increased by almost one million (41.2 per cent) and panic attacks were up by over half a million (73.7 per cent).

Although from a smaller base there were even bigger percentage increases for autism (527 per cent), attention deficit disorder (141.3 per cent), schizophrenia (128.8 per cent) and obsessive compulsive disorder (128.3 per cent).

The increases have occurred across the age range, and are steepest among younger Australians, but are still a lingering problem for significantly more than they were 10 years ago for Australians in their 40s and 50s, but dip for those aged over 58 years.

Do you feel less stress today than you did 10 years ago? Are you surprised that anxiety levels have skyrocketed in the last decade?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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