4840.0.55.001 - Mental Health of Young People, 2007  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/07/2010  First Issue
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Comorbidity refers to the presence of two or more disorders experienced simultaneously by one person. The presence of a second disorder - physical or mental - is likely to complicate and intensify the medical, social and emotional difficulties faced by young people with mental disorders. Comorbidity of mental disorders is linked to greater impairment, higher risk of suicidal behaviour, and a greater use of health services (8).

Of the 671,000 young people with a mental disorder*, around one-third (37% or 247,000 people) had two or more disorders, either a physical and mental disorder(s) or more than one mental disorder.

The severity of mental disorders is classified using a range of criteria, including the occurrence of substance dependence, suicide attempts or a degree of impairment that prevents an individual from performing their usual role (4). Around 113,000 young people with a mental disorder (17%) had a severe level of impairment, while around 236,000 (35%) had a moderate degree of impairment and around 322,000 (48%) had a mild impairment.

Young people with an Affective disorder were more likely than those with an Anxiety or a Substance Use disorder to have a severe level of impairment (55% compared with 22% and 15% respectively).


While suicide accounts for only a relatively small proportion (2%) of all deaths in Australia, it accounts for a much greater proportion of deaths from all causes within specific age groups (9). In 2007, suicide accounted for 22% (or 272) of deaths from all causes for those aged 16-24 years. Around four-fifths (79%) of young people that died due to suicide were male.

Of young people with a mental disorder, 8% had suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts in the year prior to being interviewed. The rate was almost three times higher for young people with Affective disorders, with almost a quarter having suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts in the previous year (23%).

*This article focuses on young people who met criteria for a diagnosis of a lifetime mental disorder and who experienced symptoms in the 12 months prior to the survey.