Studies confirm increase in mental distress among younger girls in Australia

13 January 2023

Two new studies published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry reveal alarming levels of mental illness among young people, particularly teenage girls.

The first study, led by the NSW Ministry of Health, investigated hospital emergency presentations for suicidal ideation and self-harm by 10-to-24-year-olds between 2015 and 2021. It found that presentations were increasing by 8.4% each year before the pandemic and have ‘accelerated since Covid to 19.2% per annum.’ (Interestingly, presentations in males aged 10 to 24 years did not increase since Covid).

A second study, led by the Centre for Big Data Research in Health at the University of NSW examined national prescribing data for people aged 10 and above between 2015 and 2021, finding antidepressant use continued to increase in Australia, especially among young people.  The greatest increase in antidepressant use was in females aged 10 to 17 years old.

The authors of the study state that during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, antidepressant use was ‘greater among females than males, and greater among young females than other age groups, suggesting an increased mental health burden in populations already on a trajectory of increased use of antidepressants prior to the pandemic.’