IMH launches nationwide study to assess state of mental health among young people in Singapore
SINGAPORE: The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) has launched a nationwide study to identify specific issues, challenges and common psychological problems that affect young people in Singapore.
The National Youth Mental Health Study aims to establish the prevalence of key mental health conditions among young people in Singapore, identify the personal and social factors associated with these conditions and the level of unmet treatment needs.
IMH researchers will also examine how young people aged 15 to 35 experience major transitions in life, such as moving across various education stages to joining the workforce and starting a family, said the institute in a media release on Tuesday (Sep 27).
“This is to assess the impact on mental health and identify risk and protective factors of adverse mental health outcomes that are unique to these stages,” IMH said.
About 2,600 people aged from 15 to 35 years old will be interviewed for the study.
Respondents will complete a set of questionnaires that will collect information on their socio-demographic background and information related to mental health, feelings, experiences in school or the workplace, social support, and lifestyle behaviours.
The study will focus on a wide range of "youth-centric aspects and behaviours" that are linked to mental health and well-being such as bullying, self-harm, alcohol use, smoking, social media use, smartphone addiction, burnout, academic stress, insomnia, resilience, body image and self-esteem.
It will also gather views on how satisfied young people are with their living environment, for instance, the level of trust in the Government, a sense of safety in their neighbourhood and social inclusivity.
The collection of data for the study will begin in October and continue until June next year. The data will be analysed and the results are expected to be ready by the end of 2024, said IMH.
HIGHEST PROPORTION OF MENTAL DISORDERS
The Singapore Mental Health Study in 2010 and 2016 focused largely on the adult population in Singapore.
Findings from both studies showed that young people aged 18 to 34 had the highest proportion of mental disorders and were more vulnerable to developing mood and anxiety disorders, said Dr Mythily Subramaniam, assistant chairman of the medical board for research at IMH.
About 21.6 per cent of youths in Singapore have also experienced at least one mental health condition, she added.
The youth mental health study will give researchers an opportunity to intervene early to support people and to design appropriate mental health promotion measures.
"This study will also allow us to better understand how young people seek help, which may be different from the general population, to better allocate relevant resources," said Dr Mythily.
"Since this is the first time we are conducting a study of this magnitude on this population, the data will also serve as a baseline for tracking future trends and changes in youth mental health in Singapore."
The study is funded by the Ministry of Health and is led by Dr Swapna Verma, chairman of the medical board at IMH and Dr Mythily. They will work with national youth mental health outreach and assessment service CHAT and the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, National University of Singapore.
The study will look at risk factors and protective factors, such as resilience and social support for those aged 15 to 35.
Dr Swapna said: "Our emphasis is on the transitional phases in a young person’s life. We know that mental health is affected as we experience transitions in life.
"For young people, this may be more pronounced because they go through several major life changes in a relatively short period of time – for example, moving from school to tertiary education or National Service, or starting their first job and taking on more responsibilities."
These changes also take place against a more challenging backdrop of global upheavals such as the COVID-19 pandemic, wars and climate change, she added.
The study will also reach out to young people who are not in education or training as there is not much insight on this group's mental health needs, said Dr Swapna.
"With the surge in psychosocial challenges faced by today’s youth, there is a need to identify immediate priorities and take appropriate steps to improve their mental well-being," she said.