06/10/2015 8:37 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST

Most Stressed, Sad Australians Not Seeking Help

Shutterstock / Boiarkina Marina

Just 18 per cent of Australians regularly seek help when feeling stressed or down, a new report shows.

The study, commissioned by Mental Health Australia, examines what Australians do to improve their mental health against 10 activities, and measured things such as sleep, exercise, diet and involvement in the community.

“Generally, Australians are doing better than expected regarding their participation in activities that assist with improving mental health and well being,” Mental Health Australia CEO Frank Quinlan said.

“We were certainly heartened by some of the results.”

But he said the most concerning result was the was the small percentage of people, just 18 per cent, who regularly sought advice or support when they were stressed or down.

“We have a long way to go to make it OK to do something about our mental health and well being,” he said.

The research showed strong positive results for certain activities, with 65 per cent of respondents claiming to regularly keep consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs as low as possible.

The research also found 58 per cent regularly make an effort to eat healthily, while 51 per cent regularly make time to socialise with family and/or friends.

Just 47 per cent regularly get a good night’s sleep.

“We found when we looked at these and other activities in young adults between 18 and 29, the results were not as strong,” Mr Quinlan said.

Surprisingly this age group was the least likely to socialise with friends and family, he said. The same age group was the least likely to take time out from their electronic devices.

“We also found people who are on lower incomes are less likely to be doing things that are helpful to their mental health and well being,” he said.

“Parents too had little time for activities that could help improve their well being.”

People over 70 were more likely than any other age group to say they socialise, participate in the community, eat and sleep well, and limit their consumption of alcohol and other drugs.

While that group scored high in all those areas, 49 per cent said they rarely or would never seek help for themselves if they did become stressed or depressed.

The researcher asked respondents to rate themselves against how often they felt they did the following:

• Make an effort to eat healthily

• Make time to socialise with family or friends

• Get a good night’s sleep

• Exercise for at least ten minutes at one time

• Keep the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs as limited as possible

• Take the time to carefully plan and prioritise work and personal commitments

• Listen to music while working or studying

• Consciously ensure times without electronic devices

• Participate in a club, society or sporting activity

• Seek advice or support when feeling down or stressed

“One small step people can do to help their mental health and wellbeing is to make a mental health promise to themselves as part of our World Mental Health Day campaign,” Mr Quinlan said.

“People can make a simple promise to do something to help improve their mental health and wellbeing and then share it, hopefully making it more acceptable to talk about mental health and seek help when they need it.”

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.