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Australia’s Health 2020

I’ve been curating a list of helpful social media channels and apps over the past several months. When the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released their flagship report, Australia’s Health 2020 this week, I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to highlight some of the recent statistics from this report. And give me a good reason to share the list of health-supportive apps and social media channels I have found or had recommended to me. 

The report, Australia’s Health, is published every two years and is an authoritative source of information into the state of health in Australia. Within this report, health is considered fundamental to an individual’s wellbeing and many aspects of health are addressed.

The report includes some good news and some not so good news on the health of young Australians aged between 12–24. 

The good news: 

The rate of deaths for young people in Australia has decreased.

The death rate among young people has fallen over time from 42 deaths per 100,000 in 2009 to 35 deaths per 100,000 in 2018.

Some health risk factors have improved:


  • The proportion of people aged 14–17 who had never smoked increased from 82% in 2001 to 97% in 2019.
  • The percentage of 14–17-year-olds who were daily smokers decreased from 11% in 2001 to 1.9% in 2019.

Alcohol consumption:

  • The proportion of 14–17-year-olds consuming five or more alcoholic drinks at least monthly remained stable between 2016 and 2019 (8.0% and 8.9%, respectively) but has declined since 2001 (30%).

Drug usage:

  • Illicit drug use defined as using at least once in the past 12 months, was considerably lower in 2019 (9.7%) than in 2001 (23%);
  • Use of cannabis fell from 21% to 8.2% (AIHW 2020b).

Some health risk factors have remained stable: 

Overweight and obesity:

  • The prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents aged 5–17 rose from 20% in 1995 to 25% in 2007–08, then remained relatively stable to 2017–18 (25%). 

The not so good news:

Despite the death rate among young Australians falling, the rate of suicide among young people has increased from 9.1 people per 100,000 in 2009 to 14 people per 100,000 in 2018.

Suicide is currently the leading cause of death for 15 - 24 year-olds. 

Some context...

In 2018, Australia recorded a total of 158,493 deaths

  • Of total deaths, 1.92% (3,046) were deaths by suicide. 
  • Of those 3046 deaths by suicide, 14% (436) occurred in people aged between 15-24 years. 
  • The majority of deaths by suicide occurred in people aged 30–59 (55%, 1,669). 

and a little historical context...

  • In 1930, suicide rates in males peaked at almost 30 deaths per 100,000.  Compare this to 18.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2018. 
  • The 1960s saw suicide rates in females peak. For most of the decade, female death by suicide rate was more than ten deaths per 100,000. Compare this to 5.7 deaths per 100 000 in 2018.

What is being done and what can we do? 

A falling death rate for young Australians is an indicator of the standards of health care many Australians receive.  The Australian Government has invested in a suicide prevention strategy and more recently, developed a national mental health and wellbeing pandemic response plan which has links to resources and a range of healthcare services. At a community and individual level, we can also take action. We can take care of our own mental health and look out for signs and symptoms of mental health distress in our family, friends and others. It can be as easy as asking ‘Are you OK?’

Mental health, just like our physical health, benefits from daily care. Some of the ways we look after our mental health and overall wellbeing include eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and practising mindfulness.

Many people find certain apps and social media channels supportive of their physical and mental health. It’s important to note that apps don’t substitute for professional and personalised advice. 

If you require mental health support, please reach out to your health professional for assistance or contact any of the following services: 

The eMental Health Practice is a directory of Australian, evidence-based, free (or low-cost), publicly funded digital mental health programs and resources, ranging from apps to crisis helplines, to self-guided online programs.

Below are some of the apps and channels that I, or others I know, have found useful in one way or another, health is personal so not everything will be helpful to everyone, consider this a sampling plate. 

Apps for mindfulness 

  • Smiling Mind
  • Headspace 
  • Insight Timer 
  • Calm
  • Stop, Breathe & Think
  • Shine
  • Five Minute Journal 

Apps for sleep 

  • Insight Timer 
  • Sleep cycle

Apps for exercise & healthy eating inspiration

  • My Fitness Pal 
  • Couch to 5K
  • Seven - 7-minute workout

YouTube Channels (Physical Health) 

  • Yoga with Adrienne  
  • Lululemon
  • Crossfit 
  • Redefining Strength

YouTube Channels (Mental Health)

  • School of Life
  • Acceptance Commitment Therapy, Dr Russ Harris
  • TED Talks
  • Headspace Australia
  • Beyond Blue Official
  • Australia

Available to participants in the Selfies & Health research project: Western Sydney University Counselling Services, phone: 1300 668 370 (option 4, then option 1)