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Almost 9 in 10 Australians think mental health is as important as physical health

New research from Smiling Mind has shown that our emotional and psychological wellbeing is very much at the forefront of Australians’ minds.

Almost 9 in 10 Australians think mental health is as important as physical health
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A survey of 1,200 Australians, conducted with University of Newcastle and funded by nib foundation, formed the basis of Smiling Minds’ inaugural State of Mind report, examining Australians’ attitudes and behaviours towards their mental health.

It found that 62 per cent of those surveyed think about their mental health on a daily basis and that 88 per cent of people believe that mental health is equally as important as physical health.

However, there is still a long way to go in getting people to take action on their wellbeing, with the report showing that whilst an estimated 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, only a third of Australians seek help from a professional to support good mental health, demonstrating a clear disconnect between awareness and action.

“The State of Mind survey represents a snapshot of attitudes to mental health in 2019, and the steps we’re taking to look after ourselves. It shows that as a country, we are making great inroads into awareness raising, but the step to action is what is missing,” Smiling Mind CEO Dr Addie Wootten said.

“Awareness raising activities have positively impacted our knowledge of mental health – and our data shows that almost 70 per cent of people know where to go to access resources that support their health and wellbeing – but it’s time to turn awareness into action, and take steps to proactively manage our mental health, much like we do our physical health.”

Professor Frances Kay-Lambkin of the University of Newcastle added that the survey findings demonstrated the generational divides when it comes to mental health.

“The survey found that young people are more likely to admit they experience stress and depression than older Australians. While this is reflective of when mental health problems commonly emerge and peak, this might also suggest that efforts to destigmatise mental illness has had an effect with our younger generation while there may still be a stigma for older Australians,” Professor Kay-Lambkin said.

But with 75 per cent of all mental illness having its onset before age 24, implementing preventative strategies at an early life stage is “vital to help implement meaningful change to mental illness statistics”, Smiling Mind said.

“Thirty-four per cent of respondents named relationships as the factor most likely to influence their ability to cope with life’s daily challenges, followed closely by sleep (32 per cent), exercise (15 per cent), meditation (9 per cent) and diet (5 per cent),” the organisation said in a statement.

“In contrast, the things that most commonly interfere with participants enjoying good mental health were work (nominated by 22 per cent of respondents), followed by relationships and physical health ailments (at 18 per cent each).”