The latest Australian Mental Wellbeing Index released by KPMG Australia and Smiling Mind shows young Australians have consistently poorer mental wellbeing than Australians aged over 65, driven by low levels of focus and concentration. The research also reveals seasonal mental wellbeing trends that could be the key to providing targeted support for millions of Australians.

For the first quarter of 2023 the nation-wide Index score was 48.9 (out of 100), a 0.56% uptick on the same period in 2022. Factors responsible for the upward trend include a significant resurgence in people’s emotional awareness (41%) and interpersonal relationships (36%) over the past year, while poor sleep quality (35%) continues to plague Australians of all ages.

Key findings

  • Young people aged 18-24 have lower levels of mental wellbeing compared to adults over 65
  • Young people aged 18-24 and 25-34 struggle most with focus and concentration 
  • Adults over 65 show lower levels of stress, better concentration and greater emotional awareness and regulation
  • Young people aged 18-24 displayed an uptick in their emotional awareness over the last quarter
  • Only 27% of Australians reported overall good levels of mental wellbeing
  • 35% of Australians report poor sleep quality

Younger Australians struggle with focus and concentration

Young Australians experience poorer mental wellbeing than older age groups, with 18-24s receiving an average index score of just 46.6 compared to adults over 65 averaging 52.3.

Focus and concentration were particularly problematic for 18-24 and 25-34 who scored significantly lower than older ages.  

Smiling Mind’s CEO, Dr Addie Wootten said, “We know youth mental health is a national crisis and the latest index report findings are consistent with this. What is interesting is that of all the domains impacting mental wellbeing, on average, young Australians are experiencing more problems with focus and concentration than other age groups. We know this has an impact on mental wellbeing and supporting young people to develop the skills to navigate our hyper connected world needs to begin in childhood.”

KPMG Mental Health Advisory Lead, Andrew Dempster said, “This highlights the need for educational and workplace leaders to really promote environments that help younger adults focus. We really need to challenge the ‘always on’ and ‘ever present multitasking' mindset that many people have become accustomed to and ask, are we spreading our attention too thinly?” 

Seasonal effects also show decline in mental health for some

Despite a general summer holiday ‘bounce’, wellbeing among the 18-24 and 45-54 age groups saw mental wellbeing decline significantly in the month of December (3% and 2% respectively). As these demographics are most likely to be studying or parenting school students, the downward spike could be attributed to end of school year and university stress.

“Understanding that the seasonal effects on mental wellbeing impacts age groups differently, at different times of the year, provides an opportunity for employers, universities and other organisations to proactively put in support for people during times when mental wellbeing consistently dips,” said Dr Wootten.

For professional educators’, wellbeing is even more volatile with peaks coinciding with students returning to school and troughs occurring during end of term holidays.

Mr Dempster said, “While challenging, what is exciting about the data is the opportunity to use it to help school leaders reduce educators’ work-related stress at key times throughout the year. Particularly given the consistency of these trends in educator mental wellbeing year on year.”

State by State mental wellbeing snapshot*

  • NSW – The index for NSW has stayed consistent with a below positive score of 48.6. An upwards trajectory during March diverged from the same period in 2022 to give the state a 0.2% positive increase across the year. 
  • VIC – After strenuous lockdowns, Victorians’ mental wellbeing improved remarkably, as they displayed the highest level of mental wellbeing across states, nearing positive territory at 49.5.
  • QLD – the sunshine state was the only one to see a fall in wellbeing after lagging lockdowns landing a score of 48.0 down 0.2% from last year.
  • SA – South Australia witnessed the greatest improvement in the wellbeing index with a score of 49.0, a notable increase of 1.6% compared to the same period in 2022.
  • WA – Relatively unscathed by the more serious effects of COVID, Western Australians garnered a wellbeing score of 48.0 increasing 0.8% from the previous year.

* Only states with a large enough sample size have been included. 

The Australian Mental Wellbeing Index is a unique health data set collected from a total of 192,337 Australian participants who completed over 782,253 surveys. On average, there were approximately 6,804 participants completing over 15,000 surveys a week.

The index provides a snapshot insight into the everyday mental wellbeing of Australia. Initially launched in August 2022 by Smiling Mind and KPMG, the index is one of the first  of its type to highlight specific skills and outcomes contributing to everyday mental wellbeing. 

For further information

Hayden Jewell
Corporate Communications 
+61 423 868 454