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Mental illnesses typically affect people in the most developmentally important or productive years of their life and may be incapacitating. Unlike cancer or cardiovascular disease, which mainly kill elderly people, mental illnesses are commonly of early onset and enduring, particularly if untreated or treated late.
According to the 1997 Mental Health and Wellbeing of Adults Survey, some 15.0% (51,102) of people in Tasmania aged 18 years and over reported having a mental disorder in the 12-month period prior to interview.
According to the 2001 National Health Survey, 10.2% (47,100) of people in Tasmania had a long-term mental or behavioural problem, and some 14.0% or 48,100 Tasmanians aged 18 years and over experienced high or very high levels of psychological stress in the four weeks prior to interview. Of the 40,100 Tasmanians aged 15 years and over with a long-term mental or behavioural problem, 15,800 had an affective disorder, and 29,700 had other mental and behavioural disorders.
Some 20.3% of Tasmanians reported using medication for their mental wellbeing in the two weeks prior to interview, with 11.7% using pharmaceutical medications, 7.7% using vitamin or mineral supplements, and 5.7% using herbal or natural medications.
(Source: ABS data available on request, 2001 National Health Survey)