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State of Mind survey spotlights need for prevention-focused mental health support

59% of young Australians have experienced anxiety; rate average wellbeing at 5.8 out of 10

Launched in time for Mental Health Awareness Month, new research from Smiling Mind has revealed young Australians’ mental health is the most strained in the nation, among other key findings.

The leading not-for-profit’s annual State of Mind survey, delivered in partnership with The University of Newcastle and funded by nib foundation, examined Australians’ attitudes and behaviours towards mental health - both in a general and COVID-19 specific context.

When asked to rate general wellbeing on a scale of one to 10, Australians aged between 18 to 25 years recorded a concerningly low average response of 5.8. This fell significantly below older respondents, with the highest response in the 65 years and over bracket (M = 7.1).

Younger Australians also reported higher levels of anxiety (59%), stress (60.1%) and depression (38.2%). Those in the 18 - 25 age group were also most likely to agree that they didn’t have money to spend on caring for it (41% agreed or strongly agreed).

Commenting on the data pertaining to young people, Dr Addie Wootten, CEO at Smiling Mind, said, “With employment rates in this age group flatlining, disrupted study, and social isolation throughout 2020, the State of Mind findings reinforce how susceptible young people are right now to mental health challenges.

“Assessing the barriers to good mental health and wellbeing, survey findings reinforce our unwavering belief that free, easily accessible, prevention-focused support is critical to turning the statistics around for this demographic of Australians,” Dr Wootten added.

Research also showed that sleep evades many across the nation, with more than a quarter of respondents (25.7%) noting it as their biggest barrier to wellbeing. Women also reported higher levels of stress (53.6%) than male respondents (39.6%).

“Data relating to sleep issues is aligned with our organisation’s firsthand experience of the year. Smiling Mind’s app-based sleep programs have been the most used throughout 2020, including at the pandemic’s onset in April, with 400,000 sleep meditations completed in this month alone,” said Dr Wootten. 

In an analysis of the impact COVID-19 has had on the mental health of Australians, data revealed that the majority of respondents noted their mental health has been ‘the same’ since the pandemic’s onset (44.6%), while nearly one third (32.6%) described it as ‘a little worse’, ‘worse’, or ‘much worse’.

The majority of participants (68.7%) recognise mindfulness as a tool that can offer support to those feeling additional burden on their mental health during COVID-19, and just over half of survey respondents (53.1%) have taken additional care of their mental health during this period.

Promisingly, survey data revealed that an understanding of the importance of good mental health is high in Australia, with 87.8% of respondents noting mental and physical health are of equal importance.

“Smiling Mind has been inundated throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Australians have sought out tools to help them take a proactive approach to caring for mental health and wellbeing,” said Dr Wootten.

“While we know there is a strong awareness around the importance of good mental health, there is still work to be done around educating and providing resources around preventative measures, to ensure Australians have the tools to support their own mental health during periods of heightened anxiety and stress, and to stop the onset of mental illness in its tracks. 

“This Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re calling on Australians to prioritise their mental health and take action to implement new strategies to support their mental health. Forming new healthy habits can take time but if we can set aside even 10 minutes a day we will all be one step ahead in looking after our mental health,” Dr Wootten concluded.

nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe, said: “We supported this research with Smiling Mind to build our collective understanding of how people, especially younger people, are coping, and where we can help further. This is particularly important at a time when COVID-19 has completely shifted our personal and professional lives and the way we go about our daily routines.”

“It’s reassuring, however, to see that a high percentage of respondents understand that looking after your mental health is equally important as your physical health. nib foundation is always eager to support research like Smiling Mind’s State of Mind survey, understanding how vital it is to the development and delivery of impactful health prevention programs,” she said.

An abundance of free, tailored programs can be accessed by all on Smiling Mind’s app and website. For more information, visit smilingmind.com.au or download the Smiling Mind app on iOS or Android.

The State of Mind report was made possible by generous funding from nib foundation.

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