One-in-two to live with a mental health disorder by 75 — who is at risk?

Posted 11 months ago by David McManus
More than one in two young Aussies feel the mental and emotional burden of loneliness. Are you one of the people struggling with isolation? [Source: Shutterstock]
More than one in two young Aussies feel the mental and emotional burden of loneliness. Are you one of the people struggling with isolation? [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • ReachOut, a youth mental health organisation, has released a new report outlining the toll loneliness had taken on young people in Australia
  • 57 percent of research participants, aged 16 – 25, reported they felt concerned, stressed or worried about feeling lonely
  • 69 percent of women and 60 percent of non-binary and gender diverse young people identified that they were feeling lonely, compared to 40 percent of males


Recently released research found youth mental health to be a significant national concern, with the psychosocial consequences of loneliness serving as a key point of interest.

ReachOut released its findings from a study of 660 participants, aged 16 – 25, which revealed that of the 57 percent of participants who claimed loneliness affected their lives, it impacted:

  • Mental health and wellbeing in 82 percent of respondents
  • Mood changes in 75 percent of respondents
  • Sleep issues in 64 percent of respondents
  • Changes to appetite in 30 percent of respondents
  • Challenges with relationships in half of respondents

A global study co-led by the University of Queensland and Harvard Medical School has revealed that half of the world’s population will develop a mental health disorder by the age of 75.

Professor John McGrath, lead author of the study, revealed the three most common disorders among women were: depression, specific phobia — a disabling anxiety that interferes with daily life and post-traumatic stress [PTSD]. In men, the three most common mental health conditions were found to be alcohol abuse, depression and specific phobia.

The research also found mental health disorders typically first emerge in childhood, adolescence or young adulthood.

“The peak age of first onset was at 15 years old, with a median age of onset of 19 for men and 20 for women,” Professor McGrath said.

“By understanding the age at which these disorders commonly arise, we can tailor public health interventions and allocate resources to ensure that appropriate and timely support is available to individuals at risk.”

Of the LGBTQIA ReachOut research respondents, loneliness was cited in 70 percent of cases, compared to only 51 percent of heterosexual people in the same age range, with 60 percent of non-binary participants expressing that they felt burdened by loneliness.

Respondents shared their top five ways to reduce feelings of loneliness and improve their overall mental health:

  • Finding new and supportive relationships
  • Deepening or improving existing relationships 
  • Access to professional support
  • More money
  • Someone to talk to

Ashley de Silva, chief executive officer [CEO] of ReachOut said that the findings, released on July 30 — International Day of Friendship — served as an important opportunity to highlight young peoples’ experiences of loneliness and to encourage young people to seek support.  

“Not only does ReachOut’s new report show loneliness is a major issue for young people across the country, it also shows that it’s having a range of impacts on their lives. Loneliness can affect mood, mental health and wellbeing, and other areas of a young person’s life including sleep, appetite and relationships,” Mr de Silva said.

“Importantly, this report is not just about numbers. When young people told us about their experiences of loneliness, many expressed a perceived lack of support from their friends and family, a need for closer relationships, a need for people to talk to and hopes to find new connections.”

“By releasing this report on International Day of Friendship we want to open up conversations about loneliness, share ways to create connections and encourage young people to seek support,” he said.

ReachOut offers parents information and coaching, to help people they care for and to deal with loneliness, mental health and supporting their emotional wellbeing. In addition to resources for parents, ReachOut is a platform for anonymous, free and online consultations for youth mental health via PeerChat.

Naturally, the cure to loneliness may appear to be other people, which is actually something of a misnomer. You can feel loneliness in huge crowds, but find comfort in being by yourself, for instance. If you believe that your solitude is negatively affecting your mental health, reach out to ReachOut or refer to the Disability Support Guide to agoraphobia