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Mental health

Contains key statistics and information about psychological distress, mental and behavioural conditions and its prevalence in Australia

Reference period
2017-18
Released
12/12/2018
Next release Unknown
First release

Key statistics

  • 20% or 4.8 million Australians had a mental or behavioural condition, an increase from 18% in 2014-15.
  • 13% or 3.2 million Australians had an anxiety-related condition, an increase from 11% in 2014-15.
  • 10% had depression or feelings of depression, an increase from 9% in 2014-15.

Mental and behavioural conditions

Mental and behavioural conditions result from a complex interplay of biological, social, psychological, environmental and economic factors, and can significantly affect how a person feels, thinks, behaves and interacts with other people[1].

Key findings

  • In 2017-18, one in five (20.1%) or 4.8 million Australians had a mental or behavioural condition, an increase from 4.0 million Australians (17.5%) in 2014-15. 
  • In 2017-18, 3.2 million Australians (13.1%) had an anxiety-related condition, an increase from 11.2% in 2014-15. 
  • One in ten people (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression, an increase from 8.9% in 2014-15.
     

Definitions

In this publication, data on mental and behavioural conditions refer to persons who reported their condition was current and long-term; that is, their condition was current at the time of interview and had lasted, or was expected to last, 6 months or more.

Note that estimates of people with mental or behavioural conditions from the National Health Survey (NHS) will differ from those obtained from a diagnostic tool such as that used in the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing.


In 2017-18, one in five (20.1%) or 4.8 million Australians had a mental or behavioural condition, an increase from around 4.0 million Australians (17.5%) in 2014-15. This increase was predominantly due to an increase in the number of people reporting anxiety-related conditions and depression or feelings of depression. 

Overall, mental and behavioural conditions were more common amongst females than males (22.3% compared with 17.9% respectively). 

Unlike many other conditions, the proportion of people with a mental or behavioural condition did not increase with age. Almost one in three (30.0%) females aged 15-24 years had a mental or behavioural condition and just over one in five (21.3%) males of the same age.

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In 2017-18, around three in five people aged 15-64 years with a mental or behavioural condition were employed, compared with around four in five people of the same age without a mental or behavioural condition (62.1% compared with 79.5% respectively). Also, people aged 15-64 years with a mental or behavioural condition were more likely to be unemployed than people without a mental or behavioural condition (5.6% compared with 3.5% respectively). Almost one in three (32.2%) people aged 15-64 years with a mental or behavioural condition were not in the labour force, almost double the rate of those without a mental or behavioural condition (17.0%).

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Anxiety

In 2017-18, 3.2 million Australians (13.1%) had an anxiety-related condition. This was an increase from 2014-15 when 2.6 million people (or 11.2%) had such a condition. Females had an anxiety-related condition at one and a half times the rate of males (15.7% compared with 10.6%).

The increase in rates of anxiety-related conditions between 2014-15 and 2017-18 was predominately in the younger age groups. For females aged 15-24 years, the proportion with anxiety-related conditions increased from 18.9% in 2014-15 to 24.6% in 2017-18. For males of the same age, the rate of anxiety-related conditions almost doubled between 2014-15 and 2017-18 (7.9% to 13.9%).

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Depression or feelings of depression

Just over one in ten people (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression in 2017-18, compared with 8.9% in 2014-15. While overall, females had depression or feelings of depression at a higher rate than males (11.6% compared with 9.1% respectively), the increase between 2014-15 and 2017-18 was especially evident amongst males aged 15-54 years.

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Anxiety and depression commonly occur together, with around 1.5 million Australians (6.1%) having both an anxiety-related condition and depression or feelings of depression in 2017-18 (an increase from 2014-15, 1.1 million people or 5.0%).

Significant and complex relationship between mental health and disability

People with disability or a restrictive long-term health condition had much higher rates of mental and behavioural conditions compared with people with no disability or restrictive long-term health condition.

In 2017-18, more than half (57.9%) of all people with a profound or severe disability reported having a mental or behavioural condition, more than four times that of people with no disability or restrictive long-term health condition (13.7%), highlighting the significant and complex relationship between mental health and disability

Psychological distress

Mental health is fundamental to the wellbeing of individuals, their families and the population as a whole. One indication of the mental health and wellbeing of a population is provided by measuring levels of psychological distress using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). The K10 questionnaire was developed to yield a global measure of psychosocial distress, based on questions about people’s level of nervousness, agitation, psychological fatigue and depression in the past four weeks.[1] 

Levels of distress

In 2017-18, around one in eight (13.0% or 2.4 million) Australians aged 18 years and over experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress, an increase from 2014-15 (11.7%). Three in five adults (60.8%) experienced a low level of psychological distress in 2017-18, a decrease from 2014-15 (68.0%). 

More women than men experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2017-18 (14.5% and 11.3% respectively). Between 2014-15 and 2017-18, rates of high or very high psychological distress remained reasonably stable across most age groups, with the exception of an increase in 55-64 year old women (from 12.3% to 16.9% respectively).

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In 2017-18, adults living in areas of most disadvantage across Australia were more than twice as likely to experience high or very high levels of psychological distress than adults living in areas of least disadvantage (18.3% compared with 9.0% respectively), continuing the pattern from 2014-15 (17.7% compared with 7.3% respectively).

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a. A lower Index of Disadvantage quintile (e.g. the first quintile) indicates relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. A higher Index of Disadvantage (e.g. the fifth quintile) indicates a relative lack of disadvantage and greater advantage in general. See Index of Relative Socio-Economic Disadvantage in the Glossary.
 

State and territory findings

New South Wales

  • In 2017-18, almost one in five (19.1%) people had a mental or behavioural condition, which was similar to the rate observed in 2014-15 (17.8%). 
  • One in eight (12.3%) had an anxiety-related condition. This was more common among females (14.1%) than males (10.6%). These rates have remained unchanged since 2014-15. 
  • Almost one in ten (9.8%) people had depression or feelings of depression, which was similar to the rate observed in 2014-15 (8.3%).
     

Victoria

  • In 2017-18, one in five (20.2%) people had a mental or behavioural condition, which was an increase since 2014-15 (17.5%). 
  • This was mostly due to an increase in those with an anxiety-related condition from 11.1% in 2014-15 to 13.3% in 2017-18. This increase was driven by females with an anxiety-related condition increasing from 13.0% to 16.1%, whereas the proportion for males have remained at similar rates; 8.8% compared with 9.9%. 
  •  One in ten (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression, which was similar to the rate observed in 2014-15 (9.1%). 
  • Overall, mental and behavioural conditions were more common amongst females than males (23.7% compared with 16.7% respectively).
     

Queensland

  • In 2017-18, one in five (22.7%) people had a mental or behavioural condition, which was an increase since 2014-15 (18.1%). 
  • This was due to increases in both anxiety-related conditions (from 12.2% to 15.6%) and depression or feelings of depression (from 9.4% to 12.4%). 
  • Since 2014-15, anxiety-related conditions have increased in people aged 0-24 years from 10.3% to 14.5%. At the same time, people aged 45-64 years have observed increases in rates of anxiety-related conditions from 13.7% to 18.1% and depression or feelings of depression from 12.6% to 17.0%. 
  • Females were more likely than males to have an anxiety-related condition (17.9% compared with 13.0%) while rates of depression or feelings of depression were similar (13.5% and 11.4% respectively). 
  • Compared with 2014-15, rates of depression or feelings of depression have increased for both males (from 8.2% to 11.4%) and females (from 10.9% to 13.5%), while anxiety-related conditions have only increased for females (from 14.0% to 17.9%).
     

South Australia

  • In 2017-18, around one in five (19.9%) people had a mental or behavioural condition, which has remained at a similar rate to 2014-15 (18.3%). 
  • Almost one in eight (12.8%) people had an anxiety-related condition and one in ten (10.2%) had depression or feelings of depression. 
  • Mental and behavioural conditions were more common amongst females than males (22.6% compared with 17.1% respectively). This is a change from 2014-15 where rates of males and females were similar. 
  • In 2017-18, females were more likely than males to have an anxiety-related condition (15.2% compared with 10.3%) While rates for males remained unchanged from 2014-15, the rate for females increased from 11.8%. 
  • Females were also more likely than males to have depression or feelings of depression (12.3% compared with 8.2%).
     

Western Australia

  • In 2017-18, more than one in six (17.8%) people had a mental or behavioural condition, an increase since 2014-15 (14.6%). 
  • One in nine (11.0%) had an anxiety-related condition, which has increased since 2014-15 from 9.0%. 
  • One in twelve (8.3%) had depression or feelings of depression; these were more common amongst females (10.4%) than males (6.0%). 
  • Overall, mental and behavioural conditions were more common in females (20.7%) compared with males (14.3%).
     

Tasmania

  • In 2017-18, one in five (21.7%) people had a mental or behavioural condition. 
  • Around one in seven (14.1%) had an anxiety-related condition and more than one in nine people (11.9%) had depression or feelings of depression. 
  • Females were more likely to have an anxiety-related condition (17.4%) and have had depression or feelings of depression (15.0%) than males (11.3% and 8.8% respectively).
     

Northern Territory

  • The rates of people who had a mental or behavioural condition have remained relatively stable since 2014-15 (15.9% compared with 14.8%). 
  • Anxiety-related conditions were the most commonly experienced mental or behavioural condition, affecting one in ten (10.7%) people, an increase from 7.2% in 2014-15. This increase was mainly due to an increase in females with anxiety from 7.9% to 11.9% while the rate remained stable for males. 
  • One in thirteen people (7.5%) had depression or feelings of depression which was similar to 2014-15 (8.5%).
     

Australian Capital Territory

  • In 2017-18, one in five (20.8%) people had a mental or behavioural condition. 
  • One in seven (13.9%) had an anxiety-related condition and one in ten (10.3%) had depression or feelings of depression. 
  • Females were more likely than males to have reported an anxiety-related condition in 2017-18 (16.7% compared with 11.4%), while males and females experienced similar rates of depression or feelings of depression.
     

Data downloads

Table 1: Summary health characteristics, 2001 to 2017–18 - Australia

Table 2: Summary health characteristics, 2017–18 - states and territories

Table 3: Long-term health conditions - Australia

Table 4: Long-term health conditions by population characteristics - Australia

Table 5: Selected current long-term conditions by health risk factors and health status - Australia

Table 7: Psychological distress - Australia

Table 19: Comorbidity of selected chronic conditions - Australia

Table 20: New South Wales

Table 21: Victoria

Table 22: Queensland

Table 23: South Australia

Table 24: Western Australia

Table 25: Tasmania

Table 26: Northern Territory

Table 27: Australian Capital Territory

All data cubes

Endnotes

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Mental behavioural conditions

  1. Australian Health Ministers, 'Fourth National Mental Health Plan – an agenda for collaborative government action in mental health 2009-2014', 2009 http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-f-plan09-toc; last accessed 23/11/2018

Psychological distress

  1. Coombs, T., 2005, ‘Australian Mental Health Outcomes and Classification Network; Kessler -10 Training Manual’, NSW Institute of Psychiatry. https://www.amhocn.org/sites/default/files/publication_files/kessler_10_manual.pdf last accessed 11/12/2018

History of changes

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28/05/2019 - Minor correction of graph labels in the labour force graph in the Mental and Behavioural Conditions page. Removal of text showing NT diabetes rate together with the Australia rate, as not statistically significant.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4364.0.55.001.