Survey: Majority of Malaysian youth have got the blues

PETALING JAYA: Six in 10 Malaysian youth aged between 15 and 30 years had mild to severe depressive symptoms, the latest nationwide survey shows.On the bright side, the results suggested that overall quality of life experiences among Malaysian youth was “satisfactory”.

The research was part of the Malaysian Youth Mental Health Index 2023 (MyMHI’23), which was conducted by the Institute for Youth Research Malaysia (Iyres) and United Nations Children’s Fund from October to November 2022 and March to April 2023, featuring 5,867 respondents.

It covered seven domains – lifestyle, surrounding environment, personal characteristics, life experiences, social support, coping mechanism and healthy mind – and supported by 28 indicators.

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The findings also noted that three in 10 had moderate to severe anxiety symptoms while one in 10 suffered from high stress.

“A score of 71.91 indicates that the youth’s mental health is rated as moderately satisfactory,” the report noted on the overall mental health score.

A moderately satisfactory mental health level could serve as a valuable early indication of potential mental health problems, it added.

It suggested that there were some stressors, especially those related to the domains of surrounding environment, social support and healthy mind.

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“If left unaddressed, these could lead to more serious mental health concerns among Malaysian youth,” it said.

The MyMHI’23 scoring ranged from 0 to 100, with the lowest possible being 0 and the highest possible100. The higher the score, the lower the risk of youth facing mental health issues.

Conversely, the lower the score, the greater the risk of youth facing mental health issues.

On the lifestyle domain, the respondents registered a moderately satisfactory score of 71.44, whereby many youth were trying to maintain a relatively balanced lifestyle which benefited their mental health.

On the surrounding environment, they scored 65.46.

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“It indicates that while there may be certain supportive aspects, there are also potential stressors and challenges that could impact the mental health and well-being of Malaysian youth,” the report explained.

On the personal characteristics domain, these youth scored 71.65, suggesting that many Malaysian youth possessed valuable traits that enabled them to overcome multiple life challenges, thus boosting resilience and fostering positive mental health and well-being.

The youth surveyed scored 88.51 for life experiences.

“This suggests that overall quality of life experiences among Malaysian youth is deemed satisfactory.

“The majority of Malaysian youth are unlikely to experience negative events in their lives such as bullying and abuse,” it said.

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The young people, however, were receiving inadequate emotional, practical and informational support from family, friends, significant others, and experts, thus scoring 68.29 on the social support domain, the report said.

The respondents also scored 71.92 for coping mechanism, with engaging in leisure activities (93.57%), spending time with family and friends (89.80%), engaging in worship or spiritual practices (87.01%), and spending time on outdoors activities (86.66%) being the top four stress management strategies.

As for healthy mind, the respondents scored 66.10, which indicated that youth in Malaysia were at moderate risk of facing emotional disturbance or disruptive feelings.

Of the youth surveyed, about 52.71% had mild anxiety; 30.99% minimal anxiety; 45.35% mild depression; and 14.37% minimal to no depression.

When it came to ethnicity, Orang Asli scored the lowest with 62.48, followed by Indians (70.05), others (70.99), bumiputra Sabah (71.04), Malay (71.84), Chinese (72.91) and bumiputra Sarawak (73.37).

The survey also stated that in 2020, one in 10 youth had reported suicidal tendencies – in the form of thoughts, plans and attempts.

It added that 953 people had tendencies to commit suicide in 2019 and the number increased to 2,119 in 2020.

The report, launched by Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh in Putrajaya yesterday, also identified intervention measures to improve youth mental health.

It suggested creating less crowded living spaces with adequate basic facilities to promote a stress-free environment; increasing youth access to mental health services; and promoting a healthy lifestyle, including providing a healthy diet and physical regimen; among others.

The full MyMHI’23 report can be downloaded from

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