Young Singaporean adults aged 18-34 are most at risk of developing a mental health illness, a Singapore Mental Health Study has found.

A report on the findings, released on Tuesday this week, showed individuals in that age group were most likely to have experienced bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, alcohol abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

From the research, conducted over a period of two years and involving more than 6,000 Singapore natives and permanent residents, several risk factors were identified.

Among the risk factors to be associated with the prevalence of mental illness were socio-demographic aspects like age, gender, marital status, education and income status.

One interesting example was alcohol abuse being more prevalent in people with a lower level of education when compared to those who were educated at a tertiary level.

While no definitive causes were identified, researchers believed young adults could be most susceptible to developing mental health problems due to experiencing a variety of emotional and social transitions in life.

“Those who have just left school have to think about finding a job, those who go into tertiary education have to think about getting a diploma or degree. It is a time for new challenges, some of which can be rather stressful,” Professor Kwok Kian Woon, a sociologist with the School of Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) said.

Increased use of social media could also be a reason for young adults being more at risk for mental disorders, according to Professor Chong Siow Ann, vice-chairman of the medical board (research) at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH).

Prof Kwok acknowledged social media could be detrimental in socially isolating young adults from the real world, however suggested it could also be used as a tool people could use to reach out for support.

Failed relationships were also considered risk factors for mental illness due to stressors involving finances, children and other intertwined issues.

Another group identified in the study as having higher risk of developing a mental health disorder were people who were not employed.

Another group of people who have a higher risk of suffering from mental illness are those who are unemployed, the study showed.

“It is possible that a person may be unable to cope with the job, and resign due to a mental illness,” Dr Mythily Subramaniam, the co-principal investigator of the study, said.

If you are in Singapore and require mental health support, contact 24-hour phone line +65 6389 2222 to speak with trained IMH counsellors.