Study paints picture of mental disorders in Australia

Media Release
Released
22/07/2022

More than two in five (43.7 per cent) Australians aged 16-85 years have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, according to findings released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Linda Fardell, head of health and disability statistics at the ABS, said the new National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing (the Study) paints a comprehensive picture of mental disorders in the community, and gives a snapshot of wellbeing.

“At the national level, the Study shows that 43.7 per cent (8.6 million) of Australians aged between 16 and 85 have experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life,” Ms Fardell said.

“In 2020-21, one in five people (21.4 per cent) experienced a mental disorder. Anxiety was the most common group of mental disorders; 16.8 per cent of all Australians had an anxiety disorder, 7.5 per cent had an affective disorder such as depression, while 3.3 per cent had a substance use disorder.”

The Study also shows that around 1.1 million (39.6 per cent) of young adults aged 16-24 years experienced a mental disorder in 2020-21.

“Almost half (46.6 per cent) of young females and one third (31.2 per cent) of young males aged 16-24 years had a mental disorder in 2020-21, with anxiety disorders being the most common type of disorder among young females and males,” Ms Fardell said. 

The Study also gives insights into the actions people took to manage their mental health.

“Some 17.5 per cent (3.4 million) of Australians had at least one consultation with a health professional for their mental health in 2020-21. General practitioners were the most common type of health professional consulted,” Ms Fardell said.

“Of people with a mental disorder in 2020-21, almost half (47.1 per cent) had at least one consultation with a health professional for their mental health. In addition to these consultations, 4.4 per cent (or 864,100) of Australians accessed at least one digital service for their mental health, such as crisis support or counselling services and online treatment programs or tools.”

The ABS will publish results from the second cohort (2021-22) of the Study in 2023, as well as results from a combined sample. The ABS would like to thank participants for contributing to these important findings. More information is available for free download on the ABS website - https://www.abs.gov.au/.

National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020-21 audio grabs

Media notes

  • If you or someone you know requires assistance or support, contact: Lifeline: 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

  • The Study used the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview 3.0 diagnostic tool (CIDI 3.0 tool) to determine mental disorders. This tool is comparable to other international studies.

  • Mental disorders in the study are based on definitions and criteria of the World Health Organization's International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision (ICD-10). Responses from the study participants are assessed to determine whether a person’s symptoms meet diagnostic criteria for having a mental disorder in their lifetime and in the 12 months prior to the study interview.

  • The CIDI 3.0 tool provides a diagnosis of common mental disorders that does not rely upon whether a person has been seen a health professional or been told they have a particular disorder, or upon self-diagnosis. 

  • Anxiety disorders include Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, Social Phobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

  • Affective disorders include Depressive Episode, Dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) and Bipolar Affective Disorder.

  • Substance Use disorders include Alcohol Harmful Use, Alcohol Dependence and Drug Use Disorders.

  • Care should be taken when reporting on mental ill health and suicide, please refer to the Mindframe website for further guidance.

  • Data for Anxiety disorders are not comparable to the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
  • This study was funded by the Department of Health and Aged Care as part of the Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study.
  • When reporting ABS data you must attribute the Australian Bureau of Statistics (or the ABS) as the source.
  • For media requests and interviews, contact the ABS Media Team via media@abs.gov.au (8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri).
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