National mental health report 2013

Indicator 2a: Participation rates by young people aged 16-30 with mental illness in education and employment: general population

Page last updated: 2013

Key messages:

  • In 2011-12, 79% of Australians aged 16-30 years with a mental illness were employed and/or enrolled in study towards a formal secondary or tertiary qualification, compared to 90% of their same age peers.
  • Employment and education participation rates for this group for most states and territories were within 10% of the national average.
  • Nationally, employment and education participation rates for this group remained stable between 2007-08 and 2011-12.
Participation in employment and formal education provide important opportunities for social inclusion. Mental illnesses are particularly prevalent during early adulthood. Many disorders emerge during the late adolescent and early adult years, a period coinciding with important developmental milestones such as the completion of education or training and the commencement of employment. The onset of mental illness, particularly severe mental illness, often involves a decline in functioning leading to compromised academic performance, premature drop out from school or training, and failed or delayed transition between education and employment. These disruptions in education can negatively affect a person's career prospects, increase the risk of long term unemployment or reliance of welfare as their primary income source, and limit opportunities for social inclusion in the broader community.40 Evidence from Australian studies shows that, among people with a mental illness, previous educational attainment is associated with current employment regardless of type of diagnosis.41

Using data from the 2011-12 National Health Survey (NHS),34 Figure 46 indicates that, in 2011-12, 79% of people aged 16-30 years with a mental illness were employed and/or enrolled in study towards a formal secondary or tertiary qualification, one eighth lower than for people without a mental illness (90%). Employment and education participation rates for people with a mental illness varied across states and territories, being highest for South Australia and lowest for Western Australia, but all were within 10% of the national average. Data for the Northern Territory should be interpreted with caution due to small numbers in the 'self-reported mental illness' category.

Comparison of data from the 2011-12 NHS with the 2007-08 NHS36 in Figure 47 shows that, nationally, the rate of participation in employment and education for people aged 16-30 years with a mental illness remained stable between 2007-08 (80%) to 2011-12 (79%). However, the amount and direction of change varied across states and territories. There were relatively large increases in South Australia and Tasmania, compared to a relatively large decrease in Western Australia. Again, small numbers in the Northern Territory mean that 2011-12 data should be interpreted with caution and 2007-08 data are unavailable.

Work and education play an important role in recovery from mental illness. There is increasing evidence that supported employment and education programs can improve employment outcomes and reduce welfare reliance among young people with mental illness.42 Top of page

Figure 46: Percentage of people aged 16-30 years who are employed and/or enrolled for study, nationally and in each state and territory, by mental illness status, 2011-2012

Refer to the following table for a text equivalent of Figure 46: Percentage of people aged 16-30 years who are employed and/or enrolled for study, nationally and in each state and territory, by mental illness status, 2011-2012

Text version of figure 46

NSW (%)Vic (%)Qld (%)WA (%)SA (%)Tas (%)ACT (%)NT (%)National (%)
People without a self-reported mental illness
93
91
87
89
86
87
97
88
90
People with a self-reported mental illness
81
80
79
71
84
75
82
55
79
Top of page

Figure 47: Percentage of people with a mental illness aged 16-30 years who are employed and/or enrolled for study, nationally and in each state and territory, 2007-08 and 2011-12

Refer to the following table for a text equivalent of Figure 47: Percentage of people with a mental illness aged 16-30 years who are employed and/or enrolled for study, nationally and in each state and territory, 2007-08 and 2011-12

Text version of figure 47

NSW (%)Vic (%)Qld (%)WA (%)SA (%)Tas (%)ACT (%)NT (%)National (%)
2008
78
81
84
84
66
63
88
-
80
2012
81
80
79
71
84
75
82
55
79