New report reveals 46% of mental health sufferers have not accessed support due to the inability to self-diagnose need, perceived cost or embarrassment
New research into Australians’ mental health published today by Wysa, a leading global provider of mental health support, reveals that one in three (31%) working age Australians are managing symptoms of moderate to severe depression or anxiety. The report suggests that the numbers of working age people who currently suffer are far higher than reported in the 2022 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) study of all Australians, which found 16.8% to be living with an anxiety disorder and 7.5% with depression.
The survey of a representative sample of 2000 Australians aged 16 to 65 years old took participants through two standardised clinical screening questionnaires (GAD-2 and PHQ-2). Despite Medicare support for mental health being available in Australia, nearly half (46%) of those who screened positive for symptoms of moderate to severe depression or anxiety have not spoken to a healthcare professional. The primary reason is that they don’t think their symptoms are serious enough, cited by a third (31%), followed by perceived cost (16%) and embarrassment (15%).
Money worries are the top reason Australians feel low in 2023, with two thirds (66%) of people are worried about the cost of living, rising to 79% of full time homemakers/parents. 4 in 10 full time employed people are stressed about work. Career choice also has an influence on mental health, with symptoms of anxiety highest within real estate workers (44%), social care (44%) and engineering (42%). The sectors with the highest symptoms of depression are IT (47%), engineering (41%) and retail (41%).
Almost twice as many 16-24 year olds screened positive for symptoms of depression (46%) or anxiety (46%) versus 55-64 year olds with anxiety (24%) or depression (23%). Additionally, Wysa found that almost half (49%) of students are experiencing significant symptoms of anxiety, compared to 31% overall, and 52% have depression symptoms that are moderate to severe, compared to 32% of all participants.
When asked who theyʼd rather go to about their mental health, half of Australians selected ‘a mental health app with clinically proven self-help resources tailored to their needs’ over anyone in the workplace or school. 50% would also choose an app over HR or school services.
Jo Aggarwal, CEO and Co-Founder, Wysa says: “There has long been a gap between available support and the numbers who need it. Even when support is there, barriers to access prevent people who need help from coming forward.
“Our experience from supporting over 6 million people in 95 countries has shown us that conversational AI as the first step of care can help bridge the shortage of qualified professionals, but more importantly, it overcomes the barriers to access people face related to stigma, cost, and the need to self-identify a need for support.
“People open up in AI-guided therapy much faster than to a human therapist, and it creates equitable access to support, at scale. Our research shows there’s an appetite for clinically safe AI-guided support and it could be the best opportunity we have to address the mental health crisis in Australia.”
The full report can be downloaded at https://www.wysa.com/all-worked-up-australia
Wysa is a global leader in AI-driven mental health support, available both to individuals, through employer benefits programmes and healthcare services. Wysa has helped over 6 million people through 500 million AI conversations across 95 countries. We believe access to support should be available whenever people need it. Stigma prevails, so Wysa takes away the need for people to ask for help and eliminates the need for people to make a judgement call on when they should seek professional human support.
Proven to improve depression and anxiety scores by an average of 31%, Wysa’s AI-first approach enables people to improve their mental health before symptoms become severe, by understanding an individual’s needs and guiding them through interactive cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) exercises.
Wysa’s clinically safe AI encourages users to take additional support, whenever it’s needed, by guiding them towards Wysa’s human coaching, employer benefits programmes (EAP) or national crisis lines.