Successive Australian generations suffering worse mental health than the one before, study shows

successive australian generations suffering worse mental health than the one before, study shows

Photograph: SeventyFour/Getty Images

Each successive generation of Australians since the 1950s is suffering worse mental health than the generation which came before them, new research has shown.

A study led by the University of Sydney has found that people born in the 1990s have poorer mental health for their age than any previous generation and are not experiencing better mental health as they age, as earlier generations have.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tracked the changes in the mental ill-health of 27,572 Australians over twenty years from 2001 to 2020.

Drawing on the nationally representative household, income and labour dynamics in Australia survey, researchers assessed how the mental health of those born in each decade from the 1940s to 1990s changed as they aged and compared the mental health of each birth cohort at the same age.

Dr Richard Morris, the lead author of the study and a senior research fellow in the faculty of medicine and health, said mental health over a person’s lifespan was thought to be U-shaped: good during one’s school years, then declining towards middle age before recovering.

Previous research comparing generations might find someone in their 50s to be happier than someone in their 30s, but was not able to determine whether this was due to the difference in age or the difference in their birth cohort, Morris said. “This is the first time we’ve really been able to locate it as a birth cohort difference.”

“The mental health of younger generations of people born in the 1990s – and to some extent, the 1980s – is worse age-for-age compared to older generations, and they’re not showing that upswing that we typically see in those older generations.”

The researchers found that the decline in mental health from around 2010 was also experienced by those born in the 1980s and, to a lesser extent, the 1970s.

Although those born after 1999 were not included in the study, it notes that the trend of worsening mental health is “even more marked in recent adolescent cohorts.”

Prof Patrick McGorry, a professor of youth mental health at the University of Melbourne, director of the board of the national youth mental health foundation Headspace and the executive director of Orygen, said the study “provides really hard data in support of the sense we’re in a global youth mental health crisis”.

“Something’s gone very, very seriously wrong with our society and the way we’re heading and the way we look after our next generations,” he said.

“It’s not just the standard risk factors for mental illness that are at work here. It’s something new.”

McGorry said megatrends – including the undermining of public education, the “rampant” wealth transfer from young people to older people, climate change and social media – meant “the bottom line is young people’s lives and their futures are much more precarious”.

Dr Peter Baldwin, a senior research fellow at the Black Dog Institute, attributed the mental health of those born in the 90s getting worse much quicker – compared with those born in the 80s – to the different types of technology that existed when the cohorts came of age.

While people born in 80s experienced web 1.0, with static information and websites, those born in the 90s grew up with social media and interactive technology – bringing with it a “flood” of social comparisons which were really bad for mental health, Baldwin said.

“What young brains really want to know is: ‘Do I belong?’ and ‘Am I good enough?’ And if you open Instagram and see 100 supermodels, athletes and entrepreneurs, it’s going to be a really tough yard stick to measure up against.”

Baldwin also believed there was a difference in how younger Australians people born from the 90s onwards were taught to deal with psychological distress, with the rise of “safety-ism” – the idea they have to be psychologically safe at all times – becoming a barrier to building resilience. Baldwin said many were becoming more and more sensitive to social distress, disagreements with other people or being exposed to points of view they disagree with.

The influence of the prevalence inflation hypothesis – whether younger generations having greater language and literacy around their mental health makes it easier to report – could be a direction for future research, Morris said.

McGorry said in the medium term, mental health problems could be prevented through tackling megatrends contributing to them, while immediately there needed to be greater investment in youth mental health services “otherwise a lot of young people are going to die unnecessarily and many, many more are going to have their futures blighted by poorly treated mental illness”.

McGorry stressed it was also a “serious threat to the economic future of Australia”, because older people were dependent on younger generations to support them.

Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

OTHER NEWS

13 minutes ago

Molly-Mae Hague fires back at critics as she defends booking Ryanair flight for sister's hen do after whisking her friend off on a private jet for ski trip

14 minutes ago

Newcastle could now ruthlessly sell 300k youngster after just one game

14 minutes ago

Russian spy chief claims Ukraine was directly involved in Moscow concert hall attack

14 minutes ago

Japan blocks iconic Mount Fuji view to stop bad behaviour by tourists

14 minutes ago

General election called: North West firms respond

14 minutes ago

Los Angeles Dodgers at Cincinnati Reds odds, picks and predictions

14 minutes ago

Little boy performs this Zulu traditional dance for family in TikTok video, delights SA in TikTok video

14 minutes ago

Escape to the Country Jules Hudson's huge family decision after needing 'escape'

14 minutes ago

‘Home Alone’ star Daniel Stern reveals why he had furious bust-up with Bono

14 minutes ago

Woman’s determination to help victims of stalking

14 minutes ago

'I've put cancer in the corner': Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York doing 'very well'

14 minutes ago

2024 Nissan Navara: Drive-away ute deals bring price cuts

14 minutes ago

Jessica Biel reveals her son looks like her twin

14 minutes ago

Kelly Osbourne wants to 'squeeze out' multiple children

14 minutes ago

Andy Lee shares spectacular Ravenswood home renovation plan, with two houses and underground tunnel

14 minutes ago

Perth ISIS survivor Joe McDowell returns to Australia after being shot in Afghanistan

15 minutes ago

Oilers show how far they have come with complete team effort in Game 1 win

15 minutes ago

Orioles survive ChiSox rally, win 8-6 in a game that ended with infield fly and interference call

15 minutes ago

How Much Does Netflix's Catalog Differ Between International Markets? | Charts

15 minutes ago

Outdoor Afro And REI Co-Op Gear’s New Inclusive Outdoor Collection Is A Traveler’s Must-Have

15 minutes ago

Question Time audience member tells Tory minister to ‘read the room’ in heated clash

16 minutes ago

Revenues surge to over €80m at pub and hotel group owned by Louis Fitzgerald

16 minutes ago

Over 60% of senior civil servants say they have been contacted about work while on leave

19 minutes ago

Diane Abbott investigation to be completed within days as Starmer sets D-Day for Labour veteran

19 minutes ago

Dax Shepard’s OCD comments called out by therapist for being ‘grossly’ misrepresenting

19 minutes ago

Car review: Mini reboot

19 minutes ago

Man City's Foden doesn't want to think about Pep leaving

19 minutes ago

3 new electric Mini models to go on sale in 2024

19 minutes ago

Philippine defence chief says Taiwan Strait situation an ‘internal matter’

19 minutes ago

Snow season in doubt for popular NSW resort after fire

19 minutes ago

Former general criticizes Canada’s failure to combat antisemitism

19 minutes ago

'Umkhokha' star Kini Shandu makes comeback after sexist comments controversy

19 minutes ago

Survivors of the stolen generation speak of their grief and hope for a better future

19 minutes ago

ITV Coronation Street fans stunned as they recognise newcomer Roscoe star from Shameless

19 minutes ago

ASX 200 insider buys up another $2,000,000 in company stock following Wednesday's 15% crash

19 minutes ago

Birmingham to hold talks with 3-5-2 manager who's never lost at St Andrew's

19 minutes ago

DA lodges complaint with the Public Service Commission over NHI

21 minutes ago

The top UN court is set to rule on a request for it to order Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza

27 minutes ago

Rishi Sunak ridiculed after basic conversation about football goes totally wrong

27 minutes ago

Tyson Fury's £1million bet with Piers Morgan - but did he ever pay?

Kênh khám phá trải nghiệm của giới trẻ, thế giới du lịch