Most young Australians happy and healthy, but some concerns remain

Most of Australia's young people consider themselves to be in good health and are satisfied with their quality of life, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Australia's Young People: Their Health and Wellbeing 2003 shows that in 2001, 94% of young Australians aged between 15-17 years and 89% of those aged between 18-24 years rated their health as 'excellent', 'very good' or 'good'.

Over 80% of young people aged 18-24 years were 'delighted', pleased' or 'mostly satisfied' with their quality of life. Only 4% saw their lives as 'unsatisfactory', 'unhappy' or 'terrible'.

Completion of schooling and employment status seemed to influence self-assessed health: a higher proportion of young people who had completed Year 12, or were employed, rated their health as 'excellent' or 'very good'.

The Year 12 completion rate was about 67%, with a higher proportion of females completing Year 12 (74%) than males (61%).

The report found that death rates for both males and females aged 12-24 years fell considerably between 1982 and 2001-by 43% for males (from 120 to 68 per 100,0000) and by 34% for females (from 38 to 25 per 100,000).

Transport accident deaths in young people of both sexes decreased by 62% between 1982 and 2001, from 41 to 15 deaths per 100,000 young people.

The suicide rate for young people-which had been increasing in Australia-reached a peak in 1997 with a rate of 15 deaths per 100,000 young people. From 1997, however, the death rate from suicide decreased to 10 deaths per 100,000 young people in 2001.

Report co-author Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman said, however, that injury and poisoning were still the major killers of young people: 'Over 70% of their deaths in 2001 were a result of these causes. Of the injury and poisoning deaths, 46% (534 deaths) were from transport accidents, and 30% (349 deaths) were from suicide'.

The report shows that males aged 12-24 years died from suicide at around 4 to 5 times the rate of females. However, females aged 12-24 years were hospitalised for intentional self-harm at twice the rate of males.

Dr Al-Yaman said that 54% of young people aged 18-24 years in 2001 exhibited low levels of psychological distress, as measured by the Kessler 10 scale. Less than 3% of males and 6% of females were found to have very high levels of psychological distress.

Other findings from the report include:

  • The rate of notified chlamydia infections, a common sexually transmitted disease, more than tripled between 1991 and 2001 from 98 to 338 cases per 100,000 young people.
  • Use of illicit substances or drugs by young people aged 14-24 fell between 1998 and 2001.
  • Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continued to have higher death and morbidity rates, higher levels of substance use, and lower levels of education and employment than non-Indigenous young people.

28 November 2003

Further information: Fadwa Al-Yaman, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1146, or tel. 0409 307 671 (mobile)
Media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032