A report released by mental health startup Wysa has revealed that one in three (31 per cent) working age Australians are managing symptoms of moderate to severe depression or anxiety.

This is far higher than reported by the 2022 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) study of all Australians, which found 16.8 per cent to be living with an anxiety disorder and 7.5 per cent with depression.

Officially released on Monday, the findings were taken from a survey of a representative sample of 2000 Australians aged 16 to 65 years, who undertook two standardised clinical screening questionnaires (GAD-2 and PHQ-2).

Of the 31 per cent of the sample who suffered from symptoms of anxiety, and 32 per cent who suffered from symptoms of depression, nearly half (46 per cent) had not spoken to a healthcare professional. 31 per cent of these respondents said they had not sought help becayse that they did not think their symptoms were serious enough, with a further 16 per cent citing cost concerns and 15 per cent citing embarrassment.

Money worries are the primary driver for low feelings among Australians in 2023, with 66 per cent of people worried about the cost of living, which rises to 79 per cent among full time homemakers or parents. Four in 10 full time employed people are stressed about work, particularly among real estate workers (44 per cent), social care (44 per cent), and engineering (42 per cent). Sectors with the highest rates of depression are IT (47 per cent), engineering (41 per cent), and retail (41 per cent).

Depression and anxiety were more prevalent among younger ages groups, with 46 per cent of 16-24 year olds screening positively for symptoms of depression and 46 per cent screening positively for symptoms of anxiety. This is compared to the 24 per cent of 55-64 year olds screening positively for anxiety and the 23 per cent screening positively for depression. Additionally, Wysa found that almost half (49 per cent) of students are experiencing significant symptoms of anxiety, compared to 31 per cent overall, and 52 per cent have depression symptoms that are moderate to severe, compared to 32 per cent of all participants.

When asked who they would rather go to about their mental health, half of Australians surveyed selected ‘a mental health app with clinically proven self-help resources tailored to their needs’ over anyone in the workplace or school. 50 per cent would also choose an app over Human Resources or school-based services.

Jo Aggarwal, CEO and co-founder of Wysa, spoke about the importance of adequate mental health care.

“Wysa’s AI-driven technology helps bridge the gap between mental health need, and the support available to those in need. With MLC today becoming the first Australian life insurer to offer customers AI-guided mental health support, the alarming picture of the mental health gap painted by this report looks a lot more encouraging. I have no doubt, other leading Australian institutions in the corporate, education and wellbeing sectors will join the ranks of future-facing organisations to unlock more accessible mental health support for more people when and where they need it: on their phones; at home, at work, at school; simply whenever and wherever they need it,” she said.

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