Australia's youth - a picture of health, mostly

Young Australians are in good health and their health is continuing to improve, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Australia's Young People: Their Health and Wellbeing 1999 shows that more than two-thirds of Australia's 12-24 years olds believe they are in good health. Also, death rates for Australia's youth have fallen by 29% in the last two decades, mainly due to a 60% decline in motor vehicle accidents over this period.

The report was launched by AIHW Board Chair and Vice Chancellor of the University of Western Sydney, Professor Janice Reid. Professor Reid warned that there was 'no room for complacency, because some important threats remain to the health of Australia's youth'.

'Injury is the leading cause of death for 12-24 year olds, with two-thirds of all deaths due to some form of injury such as accidents and suicide', Professor Reid said.

'Mental disorders account for more than half the total youth disease burden to the community.

'Not only are these current results a cause for concern, the trends in youth suicide and tobacco and alcohol dependence are also worrying.

'Suicide has not followed the declines seen for most other causes of death in this age group, particularly for young men-in fact suicide rates for young men increased by 71% between 1979 and 1997'.

Report co-author Ms Lynelle Moon said that 'about 40% of 20-24 year olds smoke, and 25% of 14-19 year olds smoke.

'And 1 in 5 young men and 1 in 10 young women in the 18-24 years age group had a substance use disorder (harmful use of, or a dependence on, drugs and/or alcohol).'

'And some subgroups don't fare so well: death rates for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, compared with non-Indigenous youth, are three times higher for young men and twice as high for young women.'

Australia's Young People: Their Health and Wellbeing 1999 is the first national report to focus entirely on the health of young Australians. It includes information on major risk factors, injuries and important diseases. It also includes separate sections on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths, youths living in rural and remote locations, those born overseas, and young people from socioeconomically disadvantaged groups.

Other findings include:

  • Among young Australians there are 3 male deaths to every one female death-higher death rates among males for accidents and suicide account for most of this difference
  • New cases of HIV infection among young men declined from 11 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 3 per 100,000 population in 1998; HIV infection rates have consistently been much lower for young women (1 per 100,000)
  • Chlamydia is the main sexually transmissible disease among young women; notifications of this disease have risen nearly three-fold within a decade.

24 January 2000

Further information: Lynelle Moon, tel. 02 6244 1155 (bh) or 04 0701 2520 (mob).
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.