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Rising unemployment among young Aussies matched by increasing anxiety, depression and stress

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January 2010 –December 2014 (n=24,420).

Between 2010 and 2014, the proportion of Australian adults looking for work rose from 4.0% to 7.4%* of the population. Over the same time frame, incidence of depression, stress and anxiety has also risen. Coincidence or connection? The latest findings from Roy Morgan Research suggest that these two trends are closely linked, especially when it comes to young job-seekers…

In 2010, 9.5% of young Aussies aged 18-24 were looking for work. By the end of 2014, this figure had almost doubled to 18.9%. Similarly dramatic increases in incidence of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and stress among this age group suggest that the pressures of job-hunting and establishing their career is taking a toll.             

Over the last five years, the proportion of 18-24 year-olds who reported experiencing anxiety in an average 12 months has risen from 11.2% to 23.0%, the highest incidence of any age group and well above the national average of 16.6%.

The proportion of 18-24 year-olds affected by stress has grown from 24.0% to 33.7%, while incidence of depression has increased from 11.3% to 19.4% -- again, consistently higher than the national averages (25.2% and 14.5% respectively).

Rising youth unemployment and its implications for mental health


Source: Roy Morgan Single Source (Australia), January 2010 –December 2014 (n=24,420).

It is worth noting that the figures above are for young Australians in general, taking in those who are employed full- and part-time, those looking for work, and students.

Among 18-24 year-olds who are looking for work, the incidence of these mental health conditions is even higher. Almost 28% reported experiencing anxiety last year; 24.7% said they’d been depressed; and a whopping 41.2% were affected by stress.

Angela Smith, Group Account Director, Roy Morgan Research, says:

“The rise of youth unemployment in Australia is a huge source of concern, and the Federal Government needs to address it before it gets any more widespread.

“At this critical stage of a young person’s life and career, the failure to find a job can have serious implications on their self-esteem and general mental health. It is no coincidence that stress, anxiety, depression and even panic attacks have sky-rocketed in incidence over the past five years among 18-24 year olds as unemployment rises.

 “While these mental health conditions are affecting more Aussies of all ages, young Australians are being hardest hit. While 14.5% of the population were affected by depression last year, this shot up to one quarter of young job-seekers. Not only is this sad, it puts more pressure on our already stretched healthcare system.” 

* (NB: this equates to an unemployment rate of 10.9% of the adult workforce)

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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate


25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%