4105.0 - Children and Youth News, Nov 2008  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/11/2008   
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Mental health is one of Australia's National Health Priority Areas. The National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007 (cat. no. 4326.0) released in October 2008 provides information on the prevalence of selected lifetime and 12 month mental disorders for people aged 16–85 years. Note that people with 12 month mental disorders are those who met criteria for diagnosis of a lifetime mental disorder and had symptoms in the 12 months prior to interview.

The survey provides information by three major disorder groups: Anxiety disorders (eg social phobia), Affective disorders (eg depression, Bipolar Affective Disorder) and Substance Use disorders (eg alcohol harmful use). It also provides information on the level of impairment, the health services used for mental health problems, physical conditions, social networks and caregiving, as well as demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

Of the 2.5 million Australians aged 16–24 years, more than a quarter (26%) had a 12 month mental disorder, that is, they experienced symptoms of a mental disorder in the 12 months prior to the survey interview. The proportion was similar for people aged 25–34 years (25%), compared to 5.9% for those aged 75–85 years.

Of 16–24 year olds 15% had 12 month Anxiety disorders, 13% had 12 month Substance Use disorders and 6.3% had 12 month Affective disorders. Among all age groups 12 month Anxiety disorders had the highest prevalence, with the highest rate in the 35–44 years age group (18%). People in younger age groups had higher prevalence of Substance Use disorders (ie the harmful use and/or dependence on alcohol and/or drugs). Of 16–24 year olds 13% had a 12 month Substance Use disorder.

The proportion of 16–24 year olds with any 12 month mental disorder was higher for females (30%) than males (23%). Females in this age group were far more likely than males to have an anxiety disorder (22% compared with 9.3%) and more likely to have an affective disorder (8.4% compared with 4.3%). However males were more likely than females to have a substance use disorder (16% compared with 9.8%). Of all youth aged 16–24 years, 16.9% had mental disorders only and 9.5% had both a mental disorder and a physical heath condition.


Data from this analysis is sourced from Births, Australia (cat. no. 3301.0) which was released in October. The publication, which is produced annually, brings together statistics for live births and fertility in Australia.

In 2007 there were 285,200 births registered in Australia, the highest number of births ever registered in Australia's history. Numbers of births increased by 19,300 (7.2%) since 2006. In 2007 the median age of all mothers of births registered in 2007 was 30.7 years and for fathers it was 33.1 years. Women aged 30-34 years experienced the highest fertility of all age groups in 2007, with 126.6 babies per 1,000 women. This was the highest rate recorded for women aged 30-34 years since 1962.

At the national level, teenage fertility increased to 16.0 babies per 1,000 teenage women in 2007 (from 15.3 babies in 2006). However, amongst the states and territories different patterns of teenage fertility exist. The Northern Territory recorded a decrease in teenage births in 2007 (to 58.6 from 63.5 in 2006), while Queensland recorded an increase (to 23.0 from 19.7 in 2006). New South Wales has continued to record decreases in teenage fertility while the remaining states and territories recorded small increases. Victoria (10.1 babies per 1,000 teenage women) and the Australian Capital Territory (10.3) recorded the lowest teenage fertility rates in 2007, while Northern Territory (58.6) recorded the highest.

Australia's total fertility rate (TFR) in 2007 was 1.93 births per woman, the highest since 1981 (1.94). The TFR represents the average number of babies that a woman could expect to bear during her reproductive lifetime assuming current age-specific fertility rates apply. Women aged 30–34 years experienced the highest fertility of all age groups in 2007, with 126.6 babies per 1,000 women. This was the highest rate recorded for women aged 30–34 years since 1962. Women aged 25–29 years continued to record the second highest fertility of all age groups, with 106.5 babies per 1,000 women in 2007.

Consistent with the overall increase in Australia's TFR, age-specific fertility rates for all age groups of mother increased between 2006 and 2007.

Declines in fertility rates have occurred amongst younger women over the period 1980 to 2007. Women aged 20–24 years experienced the greatest decrease, with fertility almost halving over the period (from 107.0 babies per 1,000 women in 1980 to 55.8 babies per 1,000 women in 2007). The fertility of women aged 25–29 years decreased by 25% over the same period (from 141.0 babies per 1,000 women to 106.5 babies per 1,000 women), while teenage fertility (women aged 15–19 years) decreased by 42% (from 27.6 babies per 1,000 women to 16.0 babies per 1,000 women).

Indigenous births

There were 14,200 births registered in Australia during 2007 (5% of all births) where at least one parent identified themselves as being of Indigenous origin on the birth registration statement.

In 2007 the TFR for Indigenous women increased to 2.4 babies per woman, from 2.1 babies per woman in 2006.

Higher fertility at younger ages contributes to the relatively high fertility of Indigenous women. In 2007, women under 30 years of age accounted for 70% of the total fertility rate for Indigenous women, compared to 46% of the total fertility rate for all women in Australia.


Australian Social Trends is currently an annual publication that presents information on contemporary social issues and areas of public policy concern. It draws on a wide range of statistics to describe aspects of Australian society, and how these are changing over time. The material below is sourced from Australian Social Trends, 2008 (cat no. 4102.0).

Risky Drinking and Drug Use

Although it is illegal to sell alcohol to people under 18 years of age, many people have access to alcohol before they turn 18. In 2007, the average age at which young men aged 15–24 years said they first consumed alcohol was around 15 years. For young women, the average age for first use of alcohol was around 17 years.

'Risky drinking' is seven or more standard drinks in one day for males and five or more for females. 'High risk drinking' is eleven or more standard drinks in one day for males and seven or more for females. Short term risky/high risk drinking - often referred to as binge drinking - leads to immediate and severe intoxication. In addition to its potential health consequences, risky/high risk drinking can increase the likelihood of a person falling, or being involved in an accident or violence.

The 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 19% of young men aged 18–24 years reported that they had engaged in risky/high risk drinking at least once a week during the last 12 months. This was double the rate of risky/high risk drinking among men aged 25 years and over (8%). Among young women aged 18–24 years, 16% reported risky/high risk drinking on a regular basis, around three times as high as the proportion of women aged 25 years and over (5%).

Substances other than alcohol that can have harmful effects are illicit drugs such as amphetamines, and legal drugs such as pain killers that are used inappropriately.

The 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey found that 23% of people aged 15–24 years reported using illicit drugs during the last 12 months, around twice as high as the proportion of people aged 25 years and over (11%). Marijuana/cannabis was the most common drug used by 15–24 year olds (18%). Ecstasy (9%), meth/amphetamines and pharmaceuticals (both 4%) were the next most common drugs used by this age group during the last 12 months.

In 2005–06, there were 11,700 hospital separations related to drug use for young people aged 15–24 years. Nearly 60% of the hospital separations were for young women. Intentional self harm by drugs or medications was involved in three out of five hospital separations for young women. The drug related hospitalisation rate for young men in 2005–06 was 324 separations per 100,000, lower than in 1998–99 (465 per 100,000). For young women, the rate was also slightly lower in 2005–06 than in 1998–99 (491 compared with 531 per 100,000).

In 2005–06, male teenagers aged 15–19 years had one of the lowest drug related hospitalisation rates among all male age groups (216 separations per 100,000), while men aged 20–24 years had one of the highest rates (428 per 100,000). For women, those aged 15–19 and 20–24 years had the highest drug related hospital separation rates among all age groups (523 and 460 per 100,000 respectively). This reflects young women's relatively high rates of drug related intentional self-harm and accidental poisoning (294 and 56 per 100,000 women aged 15–24 years).

To read the full article, go to Risk taking by young people