Study shows significant increase in anxiety and depression among young people in Ireland

ANXIETY and depression among young people in Ireland has seen a sharp spike in recent years, according to the largest ever study focused on Ireland’s youth mental health.

The ‘My World Survey 2’ is the second installment of a study developed by UCD and the national centre for youth mental health, Jigsaw, and found that since the first installment in 2012, anxiety has doubled among adolescents.

The survey found that, of the 10,459 adolescents (aged 12 to 19) across 83 second-level schools in Ireland consulted, 22pc reported experiencing severe anxiety, doubling from the 11pc in 2012.

Anxiety among the 8,290 young adults surveyed, aged 18 to 25, in third level education or in employment, has also seen a spike, increasing from 15pc in 2012 to 26pc in the 2019 survey.

The findings show that females, in particular, indicated increased levels of anxiety and decreased levels of self-esteem, body esteem, resilience and other protective factors than males of the same age.

The report, also revealed an increase in depression among the 19,000 participants.

15pc of adolescents and 21pc of young adults reported severe and very severe depression, increasing from 8pc and 14pc respectively in 2012. The report found that adolescents were also less likely to report that they coped well with problems than in 2012.

Dr Joseph Duffy, CEO of Jigsaw said that the findings of this report are concerning, despite a welcomed growing conversation around mental health in Ireland.

“While the last decade has seen a considerable growth in awareness and conversation about young people’s mental health, what is evident from the data from today’s report, is that more needs to be done to address the main issues affecting our young people,” he said.

“The increased levels of anxiety and depression, the decreased levels of self-esteem, optimism and life-satisfaction and growing trends of self-harm are of particular concern.”

The survey showed an increase of 50pc in young adults reporting having deliberately hurt themselves, without wanting to take their own life, from 22pc to 33pc.

Young people from ‘seldom heard groups’ – young people in Youthreach, Colleges of Further Education or community training or with physical disabilities showed a particular vulnerability with heightened anxiety and suicide attempts than their age-matched peers.

There, however a decrease, from 45pc to 39pc in the proportion of adolescents who reported being bullied, and fewer adolescents reported having ever drank alcohol- down to 42pc from 51pc.

There has also been an increase in protective factors, most notably in family support or support from a significant adult, however, as with the adolescent group, young adults were less likely to report being bullied than in 2012.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.

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