2,600 to participate in 1st nationwide study on youth mental health in Singapore

Institute of Mental Health (IMH)'s facade. (SCREENCAP: Google Maps Street View)
The three-year National Youth Mental Health Study aims to establish the prevalence of key mental health conditions among youth in Singapore, (SCREENCAP: Google Maps Street View)

SINGAPORE — About 2,600 youths in Singapore aged 15 to 35 will participate in the Institute of Mental Health (IMH)'s first nationwide study to assess their state of mental health.

The three-year National Youth Mental Health Study aims to examine the prevalence of key mental health conditions among youths in Singapore, personal and social factors linked to these conditions, and the extent to which treatment needs are not met, said IMH in a press release on Tuesday (27 September).

Participants of this age group who experience major life transitions, from educational progression, entry into the workforce to starting a family will be the focus of the study.

"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," said IMH.

Respondents will be given questionnaires on their background and information related to mental health, feelings, experiences in school or the workplace, social support, and lifestyle behaviours.

IMH described the study as "extensive", covering issues such as bullying, self-harm, alcohol use, smoking, social media use, smartphone addiction, burnout, academic stress, insomnia, resilience, body image and self-esteem.

The study will also look at how satisfied young people are with their living environment, such as trust in government, sense of safety in their neighbourhood and social inclusivity.

Funded by the Ministry of Health, the study is led by IMH medical board chairman Dr Swapna Verma and medical board (research) assistant chairman Dr Mythily Subramaniam, in collaboration with national youth mental health outreach and assessment service CHAT, and the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. Data collection will begin in October and continue until June next year.

Dr Mythily noted that while the Singapore Mental Health Study (SMHS) focuses on the adult population here, findings from 2010 and 2016 showed that most mental disorders occurred during teenage to early adulthood years.

They found that youths aged 18 to 34 had the highest proportion of mental disorders, and were more vulnerable to developing mood and anxiety disorders, with over one in five having experienced at least one mental health condition.

Hence, the National Youth Mental Health Study will enable early intervention to support youths and design steps to help improve their mental health, said Dr Mythily. It will lead to better understanding of the help they need, which may be different from the general population, and more targeted resource allocation, she added.

Researchers will also reach out to youths who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) as they do not have much insight into this group’s mental health needs.

"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,” said Dr Mythily.

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