Australia: the anxious country
Recent data shows more than a quarter of young Australians are living with anxiety. And with big changes happening on the regular during the COVID-19 outbreak it’s little wonder many of us are feeling worried, anxious, scared, stressed, and maybe a little bit on edge.
What is it, and why are so many of us experiencing it?
Here's a stat we can't ignore: 28% of Australians aged 18-29 reported an anxiety disorder in the year leading up to March 2018. In the year prior it was also hovering around one in four – at 27% – but marks a pretty significant uplift from where we were at a decade earlier; in 2007-08, just 11% reported the same.
This data, from the Medibank Better Health Index, a weekly survey of 1000 Australians, also shows us that young women were more than twice as likely as males to be affected, with 40% of female respondents suffering from anxiety compared to 16% of males.
Gender aside, the data also indicates that people affected by anxiety are more likely to suffer from mental health conditions – including depression, anxiety and panic attacks - when compared to the general population.
What's behind the rise in anxiety?
There are a bunch of things that could contribute to this growing percentage, and they range from positive – like decreased stigma around mental illness – to things that have become issues as the years go by, including increased use of technology and loneliness among young Australians.
“Today’s young adults are among the first to grow up with technology playing the ever-present role it now does – giving way to new and flexible ways of working, as seen in the rise of the freelancer economy," says Medibank's Chief Health Officer Linda Swan. "While this brings with it countless new opportunities, it also means today’s young people are required to be far more adaptable and accept a less regimented way of living. We know that a lack of routine can heighten stress and symptoms of mental health issues, and this could be playing a role in the trends indicated in this Index.
“While more research needs to be done into the impact changing lifestyles could be having on our mental wellbeing, it’s also worth considering that increasing awareness of the health impacts of anxiety may be increasing the number of diagnoses we’re seeing.
“Disconnecting for a while and practicing mindfulness techniques such as meditation could help, however if you’re battling with your mental health, remember that your GP is always there for you.”
How do I know if this is anxiety or just stress?
“A little bit of anxiety improves our efficiency and performance," says adolescent and child psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg. "It becomes a problem when these feelings don't go away. There are many symptoms for anxiety that may indicate a problem. One of these can be lack of skills to cope. This may affect your ability to work, study and sleep.”
Those symptoms Dr Carr-Gregg mentions aren't always obvious. They also might not be present now, but could develop over time. Everyone can experience some form of anxiety during their life, so it can be hard to know what you're experiencing and if you need to chat to someone.
Think you might be experiencing anxiety? We think Beyond Blue’s checklist is helpful tool to measure your anxiety levels. It also offers information and contacts for when you need some extra support.
If you need support for a mental health issue, there is 24/7 help available. Reach out to the Beyond Blue Support Service on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.