BACKGROUND COLOUR

Mental health concerns on the rise as lockdowns lifted

Psychological distress has been on the rise from April to October 2021, but still lower than the peaks in April and October 2020. Compared to pre-COVID, the greatest increase in psychological distress has been amongst young people.

11.7

On average, Australians scored 11.7 on the K6 scale, indicating that psychological distress is on the rise, but still lower than the peaks in April and October 2020.

13 %

This means that 13% of Australians are experiencing severe psychological distress.

14.4

Psychological distress is worst amongst young people, with those aged 18-24 averaging a much higher score of 14.4.

9.0

Psychological distress is lowest amongst the older age groups, with those aged 75+ averaging a score of 9.0.

Psychological distress in Australia, February 2017 to October 2021
In the past 4 weeks how often have you felt Nervous? Hopeless? Restless or fidgety? That everything was an effort? So sad that nothing could cheer you up? Worthless?
Sources & Methodology
Variable description K6-scale
Variable time span February 2017 - October 2021
Published by ANU Poll
Publisher Link https://csrm.cass.anu.edu.au/research/publications/tracking-wellbeing-outcomes-during-covid-19-pandemic-october-2021-putting
Data Source doi:10.26193/YB3CXX
CSV Data
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While levels of psychological distress in October 2021 were not above the April and October 2020 peaks, they were significantly above the levels found in August 2021, as well as in February 2017.

Australia’s mental health appears to have worsened from April to October 2021. The Kessler (K6) comprises six items and has been widely used and validated in many epidemiological studies. The K6 questions ask the respondent how often in the last four weeks they felt: ‘nervous’; ‘hopeless’; ‘restless or fidgety’; ‘so depressed that nothing could cheer you up’; ‘that everything was an effort’; and ‘worthless’. There were five response categories, from “none of the time” to “all the time”, with values ranging from 1 through 5. The K6 items can be summed to produce an index, with potential values ranging from 6 to 30.

This figure reports the average values for the Kessler-6 measure of psychological distress for the nine waves of data collection over the COVID-19 period, as well as pre-COVID data from February 2017. While levels of psychological distress in October 2021 were not above the April and October 2020 peaks, they were significantly above the levels found in August 2021, as well as in February 2017.

Severe psychological distress in Australia, February 2017 to October 2021
In the past 4 weeks how often have you felt Nervous? Hopeless? Restless or fidgety? That everything was an effort? So sad that nothing could cheer you up? Worthless?
Sources & Methodology
Variable description K6-scale, by month and year
Variable time span February 2017 - October 2021
Published by ANU Poll
Publisher Link https://csrm.cass.anu.edu.au/research/publications/tracking-wellbeing-outcomes-during-covid-19-pandemic-october-2021-putting
Data Source doi:10.26193/YB3CXX
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Psychological distress currently sits at its highest level throughout the whole pandemic.

Severe psychological distress has been on the rise from January 2021 to October 2021. It currently sits at its highest level throughout the whole pandemic.

Psychological distress in Australia by age, February 2017, August 2021 and October 2021
In the past 4 weeks how often have you felt Nervous? Hopeless? Restless or fidgety? That everything was an effort? So sad that nothing could cheer you up? Worthless?
Sources & Methodology
Variable description K6-scale, by month and year
Variable time span February 2017, August 2021, October 2021
Published by ANU Poll
Publisher Link https://csrm.cass.anu.edu.au/research/publications/tracking-wellbeing-outcomes-during-covid-19-pandemic-october-2021-putting
Data Source doi:10.26193/YB3CXX
CSV Data
PNG Image
CHART
SOURCES
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Compared to pre-COVID, the greatest increase in psychological distress has still been amongst young people.

The worsening in psychological distress over the period August to October 2021 is found for four age groups – 18 to 24 years (4.19 per cent increase); 25 to 34 years (3.72 per cent increase); 35 to 44 years (4.84 per cent increase); and 75 years and older (7.57 per cent increase). Compared to pre-COVID, however, the greatest increase in psychological distress has still been amongst young people.