1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Proportion of people with a mental disorder(a) - 2007
Graph Image for Proportion of people with a mental disorder(a) - 2007

Footnote(s): (a) People aged 16-85 years who met criteria for diagnosis of a lifetime mental disorder and had symptoms in the 12 months prior to interview.

Source(s): ABS National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007 (cat. no. 4326.0)


An individual's mental health affects their ability to relate to family, friends, work mates and the broader community. People with a mental disorder may experience significant distress and/or disability.

In 2007, almost half (45% or 7.3 million) of 16 million Australians (aged 16-85 years) met the criteria for a diagnosis of a mental disorder at some point in their life. One-in-five (3.2 million) had experienced the symptoms in the 12 months prior to the survey.

Age and sex

Women had higher rates of mental disorders (within the 12 months prior to the survey) than did men (22% compared with 18%), while younger people had higher rates than older people. Around a quarter of people aged 16-24 years (26%) and people aged 25-34 years (25%) had experienced the symptoms of a mental disorder in the 12 months prior to the survey compared with 5.9% of those aged 75-85 years old.

Adolescence and young adulthood is a critical stage of transition in an individual's physical and mental development. Mental disorders in young people can seriously disrupt their growth and development, eroding their quality of life by affecting their self-confidence, relationships, education and employment (ABS 2010d). Over three-quarters (76%) of people who experience mental disorder during their lifetime will first develop a disorder before the age of 25 years.


In 2007, anxiety disorders were the most common mental disorders, affecting 14% of all people (aged 16-85 years) in the 12 months prior to the survey. Anxiety disorders generally involve feelings of tension, distress or nervousness. Specific anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, agoraphobia and generalised anxiety disorder have some symptoms in common such as a pounding heart, sweating, trembling, shaking and having difficulty breathing. Women were more likely to have experienced anxiety disorders than men (18% and 11% respectively) (ABS 2009c).


The symptoms of mental illness may interfere with people's lives in different ways and to different degrees. The severity of mental disorders can be classified as mild, moderate or severe, based on a person's reporting of the impact of their symptoms on their home life, their social life, their ability to work and their relationships.

In 2007, of all people with a mental disorder, just over one-fifth (21%) had a severe disorder, one-third (33%) had a moderate disorder and just under half (46%) had a mild disorder (ABS 2009c).


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