herald

Friday 13 December 2019

Youth mental health worsens as anxiety and depression soar

Jigsaw chief Dr Joseph Duffy
Jigsaw chief Dr Joseph Duffy

Anxiety and depression among young people in Ireland have risen sharply in recent years, according to the largest ever study of Ireland's youth mental health.

The My World Survey 2, the second part of a study developed by UCD and the national centre for youth mental health, Jigsaw, found that since the first report in 2012 anxiety has doubled among adolescents.

The survey found that, of the 10,459 adolescents (aged 12 to 19) across 83 second-level schools in Ireland consulted, 22pc reported experiencing severe anxiety, doubling from 11pc in 2012.

Anxiety among the 8,290 young adults surveyed, aged 18 to 25, in third-level education or in employment, has also seen a spike, increasing from 15pc in 2012 to 26pc in the 2019 survey.

The findings show that girls and young women, in particular, indicated increased levels of anxiety and decreased self-esteem, body esteem, resilience and other protective factors than males of the same age.

The report also reveals an increase in depression among the 19,000 participants.

Some 15pc of adolescents and 21pc of young adults reported severe and very severe depression, increasing from 8pc and 14pc respectively in 2012.

The report found that adolescents were also less likely to report that they coped well with problems than in 2012.

Jigsaw chief executive Dr Joseph Duffy said the findings were concerning.

"While the last decade has seen a considerable growth in awareness and conversation about young people's mental health, what is evident from the data from today's report is that more needs to be done to address the main issues affecting our young people," he said.

"The increased levels of anxiety and depression, the decreased levels of self-esteem, optimism and life-satisfaction and growing trends of self-harm are of particular concern."

The survey showed an increase of 50pc in young adults reporting having deliberately hurt themselves, without wanting to take their own life, from 22pc to 33pc.

Suicide

Young people from 'seldom heard groups', such as those in Youthreach, further education colleges or community training or those with physical disabilities, showed a particular vulnerability, with heightened anxiety and suicide attempts than their age-matched peers.

There was, however a decrease, from 45pc to 39pc, in the proportion of adolescents who reported being bullied, and fewer adolescents reported having ever drank alcohol, down to 42pc from 51pc.

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