YOUNG Australians are developing mental health worries at a rate resembling those of people three times their age.
And young women appear to be leading the trend, new health insurance data shows.
It’s not unusual for women in their twenties to take out insurance in preparation for having a baby.
But Medibank Private statistics show that more and more they are fearful they will need health cover for mental illness.
People with hospital insurance that doesn’t include mental health treatment can now upgrade to include it in their cover without a waiting period.
In the first seven weeks of this year, 216 Australians took advantage of this with Medibank Private.
Of these, 58 were under the age of 30. And of those in that age group, 35 were women.
There is also anecdotal evidence from Medibank shopfronts and call centre engagements that mental health is a growing concern for young policy holders.
There are figures showing young people of both sexes are as worried as people in their sixties and seventies about mental illness.
An Ipsos Healthcare research project last year involving 1037 Australians found 25 per cent of young people rated mental health as the number one “quality of life” factor.
This was significantly higher than for any other age groups, with the only other cohort ranking it their top health concern being those aged 65 and over.
Overall there has been an alarming increase in the number of overnight hospital admissions, as reported by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and it has been increasing the burden on public hospitals.
Between 2014-15 and 2015-16 (the latest figures available) these admissions increased by 7.8 per cent. For private hospitals the rise was 3.5 per cent, but for public hospitals it was nine per cent.
However, longer-term treatment almost invariably is done in private hospitals and this is a significant contribution to the growing load on private health insurance.
Again, young women seem to be the most vulnerable in this area, according to figures collected by Private Health Australia.
In the 2016-17 financial year, mental health treatment (without electroconvulsive therapy) was the fourth most common hospital admission for women aged under 30 with private insurance, compared to eighth for men.
There were 22,463 admissions for women with mental health issues, compared to 14,594 admissions for women giving birth.
This piece by Malcolm Farr was first seen on ‘The Gympie Times‘, 28 May 2018.