New headspace research reveals alarming levels of psychological distress in young Australians

headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation has revealed alarming new data on the levels of psychological distress amongst young Australians[1].

The research is released ahead of the third annual headspace day to be celebrated at headspace Maitland on Friday 12th October from 3-6pm, as part of National Mental Health Week.

The research revealed that:

  • Nearly one in three (32%) young Australians (12 to 25 year olds) are reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress – more than treble the rate in 2007[2] (9%).
  • Rates of distress are significantly higher amongst young women (38% compared to 26% of young men).
  • 18 to 21 year olds are reporting the highest levels (38% compared to 20% of 12 to 14 year olds)
  • Victoria has the highest percentage of young people reporting high or very high levels of psychological distress – 35% compared to 33% in WA and SA, 31% in NSW and 29% in Queensland.

“This new research has revealed a startling and deeply concerning increase in the levels of psychological distress currently being experienced by young people throughout Australia, affecting young people of all ages, locations and backgrounds,” Jason Trethowan, CEO of headspace national said.

“The figures are too high to be ignored or not be taken as serious warning that the mental wellbeing of our future generation needs to be prioritised, nurtured and safeguarded,” Mr Trethowan said.

“One of the most vulnerable times for young people to experience mental health issues is between 18 and 24 years of age. At this stage, young people face a unique set of life challenges: transitioning from school to study or the workforce, moving out of home and relationship break-ups, which can all make it hard for them to stay in a positive state of mind. We need to continue to invest in services for our young people and help them build their mental health literacy from a young age”, says Mr Trethowan.

headspace Maitland Centre Manager, Felicity Scott, invites all young people, their peers, families and carers to the centre to celebrate headspace day and enjoy the service’s sensory room, art activities, yoga and music. It’s a great opportunity to check out the centre’s pool tables and giant scrabble too!

“Members of our Youth Reference Group will be hosting the day and sharing personal experiences of their journey. It’s an opportunity for other young people to come along and hear stories from people their age who may have been through similar challenges,” Ms Scott said.

This headspace day, the centre is encouraging young people to take active steps to support their mental health and wellness.

“There are some simple things that we can all do to promote mental health- participating in activities that you enjoy, connecting with people, learning new strategies to handle tough times, eating and sleeping well and staying active. headspace Maitland is a welcome space that young people can come to if they need someone to talk to- headspace day might be a great opportunity to visit for the first time,” Ms Scott said.

To get involved, young people are encouraged to drop in on Friday from 3-6pm, follow headspace on social media or to share their favourite tip or illustration to promote mental health using #headspaceday.

About the research

The new research, which analyses levels of distress on the K10 Psychological Distress Scale, is part of the headspace National Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey. The survey seeks to understand the likelihood, drivers and impacts on mental health and wellbeing of over 4,000 young people aged between 12-25 years using a rigorous population-based sampling method.

About headspace

headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds. headspace has 106 centres across Australia in metropolitan, regional and remote areas, as well as online and phone support services through eheadspace. headspace can help young people with mental health, physical health (including sexual health) alcohol and other drug services, and work and study support.

If you, or someone you know, is going through a tough time, you can contact headspace Maitland. You can also find a number of online resources and factsheets at


[1] headspace National Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing Survey. K10 Psychological Distress Score, 2018

[2] National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, ABS, 2007