Young women at high risk of mental illness

Found in: New publications

Young women at high risk of mental illness


A joint report released by Mission Australia and Black Dog Institute shows an increase in the prevalence of probable mental illness among young females.

Young people's mental health over the years: Youth Survey 2012-14 presents the findings of the past three years on the rates of psychological distress in young Australians, aged 15-17. The report found young women were nearly twice as likely to suffer from mental illness as young men, at 26.5 per cent for females compared to 13.9 per cent for males. The top three issues that young women are most likely to be either very or extremely concerned about were coping with stress, school and study, and body image.

Research also shows that gender is the most substantive variable across patterns of victimisation and perpetration; with young women particularly vulnerable to sexual assault [1] Research involving females with Child-Protection-Service-substantiated sexual abuse, shows that sexually abused women at follow-up aged 25 are more likely to engage in self-mutilation, risky sexual activity, abuse drugs and alcohol, experience more lifetime traumas, PTSD, fail to complete high school, and qualify for at least one DSM diagnosis.[2] Potent ‘sleeper effects’ emerge over longer developmental time spans than previously documented, including increasing obesity and high rates of intimate partner abuse in early adulthood.[3]

Given the gender specificity of research, tailored intervention and prevention programs and strategies need to be informed by gender differences and intervene in the social environment that increases women’s susceptibility to poor mental health outcomes. This is consistent with other research across Western countries and is something WCHN urges the Federal Government to consider when announcing their mental health reform plan by the end of the year. 

Read the Report


[1] Violence against women in Australia: Additional analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Personal Safety Survey, 2012: Key findings and future directions

[2] Trickett, Noll, & Putnam (2011). The impact of sexual abuse on female development: Lessons from a multigenerational, longitudinal research study Dev Psychopathol. 23(2): 453-476.

[3] Ibid.