The kids are not alright: differential trends in mental ill-health in Australia

Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 03/23

Date: February 2023


Ferdi Botha
Richard W. Morris
Peter Butterworth
Nick Glozier


Given the observed deterioration in mental health among Australians over the past decade, this study investigates to what extent this differs in people born in different decades – i.e., possible cohort differences in the mental health of Australians. Using 20 years of data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, we find strong evidence that cohort effects are driving the increase in population level mental ill-health. Deteriorating mental health is particularly pronounced among people born in the 1990s and seen to a lesser extent among the 1980s cohort. There is little evidence that mental health is worsening with age for people born prior to the 1980s. The findings from this study highlight that it is the poorer mental health of Millennials that is driving the apparent deterioration in population-level mental health. Understanding the context and changes in society that have differentially affected younger people may inform efforts to ameliorate this trend and prevent it continuing for emerging cohorts.

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