Skip to main content

About Young Adult Mental Health

Understanding Young Adult Mental Health

Young Adult Mental Health

Many serious mental health conditions can emerge in the late teens and early twenties, further complicating an already difficult period of life. Mental health conditions such as bipolar and schizophrenia, among others, may be more prevalent around this time. Other common issues that young adults are often vulnerable to include substance abuse, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.

A review of the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that the onset of most mental health issues occur in young adulthood, and young adults were identified as experiencing concerns such as problematic psychological distress, major depressive episodes, and alcohol or substance abuse problems at higher rates than adults aged 26 to 34 years. Despite experiencing a higher prevalence of mental health and substance use issues, however, young adults had lower treatment rates than older adults.


Many young adults also experience a change in or challenges to their world views. As young adults enter new academic settings, new social circles, or new workplace environments, beliefs and values held throughout childhood may be questioned by others from different backgrounds or challenged by new ideas. In fact, Arnett's research shows that many young adults have identified the act of deciding on their own beliefs and values as an essential part of becoming an adult. This aspect of young adulthood may conflict with identity, or what was believed to be one's identity, and stir feelings that could contribute to mental health issues like anxiety or depression.

Young adults also have a high risk for suicide. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Youth suicide rates in Australia are higher than in many other countries and suicide is the leading cause of death for young people. Some prominent risk factors for young adult suicide include:

  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression
  • History of other mental health issues
  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Stressful life events
  • Trauma
  • Incarceration