In 2014, there were 221,814 young adults aged 15 to 24 in our region. The age group represented 14.1 per cent of the region’s population (compared to 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, as other age groups increase. More than half the growth in the 15 to 24 age group will be 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 young adults is particularly important. Health-related behaviours are usually established at this age, which means successful early intervention can significantly improve health outcomes.
Nationally, the most recent report on ‘burden of disease’ found that the highest causes of non-fatal burden in this age group related to:
- alcohol use disorders
- anxiety disorders
- depressive disorders
- back pain.
Key health needs for young people in our region
Mental disorders are the highest burden of disease for 15 to 24-year-olds, accounting for almost half of all disease. Rates of eating disorders are above the Victorian average in some inner and outer-suburban areas.
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 exposure 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 NWMPHN 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 is the leading cause of death for young people Australia-wide, and average rates for suicide have risen for 15 to 19-year-olds in the past 10 years. Intentional injury is the third-highest burden of disease for all 15 to 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 to 24-year-olds are very high in the region’s inner-suburban areas.
The number of Victorian students taking up smoking has declined in recent years, but preventing young people from taking up smoking remains a focus.
Methamphetamine use among 14 to 19-year-olds across Australia has not risen, but the purity and damage caused by the drug has increased.
While sexual health issues can be relevant throughout life, young adults are most at risk and in need of preventative and treatment-based options to manage their sexual health.
All local government areas in our 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.
Doctors in Secondary Schools
Doctors in Secondary Schools provides school-based health services for 100 Victorian secondary schools considered most in need. It complements existing student wellbeing programs aimed at preventative health and improving health literacy. Visit nwmphn.org.au/diss for more information.