In 2014, there were 221,814 young adults aged 15 to 24 years in the region, representing 14.1 per cent of the region’s population (above the Victorian average of 13.3 per cent). The number of young adults in the region is predicted to increase to 296,033 by 2031, but the proportion of young adults will decline over this period to 12.8 per cent. More than half the growth will occur in Hume, Melton and Wyndham.

Young people face a range of complex challenges as they mature, such as establishing their identity, learning to function as independent adults, and understanding their sexuality. Young people often engage in risk-taking behaviours that can affect their health, such as problem drinking, taking illicit drugs and engaging in unsafe sex. Providing support to this age group is particularly important, as health-related behaviours are usually established in this period, which means successful early interventions can have a big impact on future health outcomes.

Nationally, the most recent burden of disease study reports that the highest causes of non-fatal burden in this age group relate to:

  • alcohol use disorders
  • anxiety disorders
  • depressive disorders
  • asthma
  • back pain

The key health needs for young people in north and western Melbourne include:

Mental health

Mental disorders are the highest burden of disease for 15-24 year olds, accounting for almost half of all disease. Rates of eating disorders are above the Victorian average in some inner-suburban and outer-suburban LGAs.

Young people who may be at particular risk of experiencing psychological distress include:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, particularly when they are exposed to racism
  • culturally and linguistically diverse and/or refugee children and young people who have endured traumatic exposures prior to migration, and who experience difficulties associated with resettlement
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) young people, particularly when they have been exposed to homophobia

Data from headspace, the national youth mental health foundation, identified that in comparison to the rest of Australia, service users from the North Western Melbourne PHN region had:

  • greater progression of mental illness
  • generally higher outcomes on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10)
  • generally lower outcomes on the Social and Occupational Functioning Assessment Scale • higher average visit frequency.

Suicide prevention

Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people across Australia, and average rates for suicide have risen for 15-19 year olds in the last 10 years. Intentional injury is the third highest burden of disease for all 15-24 year olds. It is in the top five burdens of disease for males.

Alcohol and other drug use

Alcohol contributes to the three leading causes of teenage death: injury, homicide and suicide. Rates of alcohol and drug-related ambulance call-outs and hospitalisations for 15-24 year olds are very high in the region’s inner-suburban areas.

The number of Victorian students taking up smoking have declined in recent years, but preventing young people from taking up smoking remains a focus.

Methamphetamine use among 14-19 year olds across Australia has not risen, but the purity (and therefore the impact) of the drug has increased.

Sexual health

While sexual health issues can be relevant across the lifespan, often young adults are most at risk and in need of preventative and treatment based options to manage their sexual health.

  • all LGAs in the region (except Macedon Ranges and Moorabool) have crude rates of sexually transmitted infections and HIV above the Victorian average
  • rates of HPV vaccination for young women have fallen.