Older, wiser and mentally healthier Canberrans


A new report commissioned by the ACT Government has found Canberrans have better mental health outcomes as they grow older.

The PATH Through Life Project: Physical health, mental health and wellbeing, and independence-related factors of healthy ageing report examined the physical and mental health of more than 7,400 people from Canberra and the surrounding region. The study has followed the same individuals for more than 20 years.  

It found that, on average, Canberrans’ physical health declined as they grew older, but their mental health improved over the years.

Mental Health Minister Emma Davidson said the findings painted a picture of ageing across the region.

“Physical and mental health, wellbeing, and functional independence are all related to healthy ageing and living well,” Minister Davidson said. “We know older Canberrans may experience poor mental health due to changes in lifestyle following retirement, greater chance of chronic conditions, and the social and emotional challenges sometimes associated with age, so it is encouraging to see older members of our community reporting positive mental health.

“However, it is concerning younger Canberrans are reporting significantly higher rates of anxiety and depression than other cohorts.”

Findings of the report showed the younger respondent group was less healthy, both physically and mentally, at similar ages to oldest respondent group.

The joint report from the University of New South Wales and ACT Health also found:

  • The percentage of people who were obese, had arthritis, thyroid disorder, diabetes, lung condition, hypertension, problems with hearing and vision, or took cholesterol lowering medication increased with age.
  • Canberrans aged 40-44 were most likely to experience anxiety symptoms.
  • Depressive symptoms were lowest amongst older Canberrans and highest amongst younger.

“It is vital we continue to monitor the mental health of young Canberrans to ensure they do not experience poorer outcomes as they age,” Minister Davidson said.

“Having an environment that allows people to live active, productive, and mentally healthy lives is critical to support healthy ageing. This means people are able to access mental health support when and where they need it.

“Ensuring equitable and quality access to strong mental health support for all ages means Canberrans can live healthier lives as active members of our community.”

The full report can be read at https://health.act.gov.au/about-our-health-system/data-and-publications/healthstats/epidemiology-publications

For mental health support services in the ACT, visit https://www.health.act.gov.au/about-our-health-system/office-mental-health-and-wellbeing/need-help