Disasters take toll on young adults’ mental health

Anxious young person. | Newsreel
The mental health of Australians aged 18-24 is being impacted by natural disasters. | Photo: Rapid Eye (iStock)

Natural disasters are impacting the mental health of young Australians, affecting 90 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds.

New Lifeline research found the majority of Australians were concerned about the increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather, with young people aged 18-24 and parents of under 18s experiencing the most significant impacts on their mental health.

Lifeline Australia Chief Research Officer Dr Anna Brooks said the 2024 Extreme Weather, Mental Health & Suicidality Report revealed 90 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds believed natural disasters have taken a toll on their mental health, as well as that of their friends, family and the community.

Dr Brooks said 81 percent of parents felt the same, compared to 48 percent of the general population.

“More than half of young people (56 percent) and parents with children under 18 (55 percent ), say climate-related stress and anxiety are impeding their daily functioning compared to 43 percent of the general population,” she said.

When asked about their biggest concerns, people surveyed reported extreme weather events and climate change were the highest stressors after cost of living.

Dr Brooks said this was ahead of affordable housing, healthcare and the economy.

“As we experience climate change, with many directly and indirectly impacted, taking action can help reduce that anxiety. It could be as simple as becoming more informed about weather events or joining a local emergency or environmental action group,” Dr Brooks said.

“Given young people are particularly impacted, parents and caregivers have an especially important role to play. Effective ways to support young people include making time and space for honest, age-appropriate conversations, as well as promoting an action-oriented approach.

“You might role-model behaviours like taking cooler, shorter showers, turning off lights in unoccupied rooms and buying pre-loved fashion.”

She said people living in disaster zones were some of the most affected.

“If you are feeling overwhelmed, regardless of where you live, please reach out to Lifeline in the way you feel most comfortable. You can phone, text or chat to a Crisis Supporter 24/7 and also jump online for support resources.”

Phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, text 0477 131 114, chat to Lifeline online 24/7