The mental health and wellbeing of young people in Australia

Media release

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Monday, 25 Oct 2004

MEDIA RELEASE For release Monday 25 October 2004 The mental health and wellbeing of young people in Australia A leading authority on adolescent mental health warned delegates at an Adelaide conference today that a combination of falling birth rates and increasing rates of adolescent mental health problems has the potential to adversely affect Australiaís growth and development. It is essential that we take the necessary steps to guarantee the quality of childrenís living and educational environments to ensure that new generations of children achieve their maximum potential. Dr Michael Sawyer, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide and Head of the Research and Evaluation Unit at the Womenís and Childrenís Hospital in Adelaide was delivering a keynote address at the Australian Council for Educational Researchís annual conference. Dr Sawyer told delegates that there is recent evidence from Great Britain that successive cohorts of adolescents are experiencing increasing rates of mental health problems. ìReducing rates of adolescent mental health problems in the community is a difficult task and it is essential that we build systematically on our knowledge of effective interventions over the next decade,î he said. He reviewed results from the child and adolescent component of the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, the most recent national survey of the mental health of children and adolescents in Australia, and a study conducted in Great Britain of mental health problems experienced by adolescents over the last 25 years. The Australian survey found that 13-14 per cent of children and adolescents had some form of mental health problem. The most common mental health disorder was Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which had a prevalence of 11 per cent. The prevalence of depressive disorder and conduct disorder was 3 per cent. Males had a higher prevalence of ADHD and conduct disorder than did females. Children living in low-income families with single or step-parents were more likely to have mental health problems and mental disorders. The study in Great Britain showed that rates of conduct problems have increased substantially among male and female adolescents over the last 25 years. There was also evidence of recent increases in rates of adolescent emotional problems. "There is a great need to identify the optimal mix of promotion; prevention and treatment interventions that can provide the most cost-effective help for young people and their families in Australia," Dr Sawyer said. ****************ENDS*************