News & Trends - Pharmaceuticals

Large study reveals the significant burden of mental health disorders impacting Australians

Health Industry Hub | August 2, 2022 |
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More than two in five (43.7%) 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% (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%) experienced a mental disorder. Anxiety was the most common group of mental disorders; 16.8% of all Australians had an anxiety disorder, 7.5% had an affective disorder such as depression, while 3.3% had a substance use disorder.”

The disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women’s mental health was also highlighted. One in four females (24.6%) had a 12-month mental disorder in 2020-21, compared with 18.0% of males. Females experienced higher rates than males of anxiety disorders  (21.0% compared with 12.4%) and affective disorders (8.5% compared with 6.2%)

Mark Butler MP, Minister for Health and Aged Care, said “The Black Summer bushfires, east coast floods and the COVID-19 pandemic all had a major impact on the mental health of Australians during 2020–21. We need to make sure we have the right resources in place for people to get the care they need, and it is encouraging to see more people getting support than the previous report.

“The Albanese Government understands the importance of mental health care for Australians, highlighted by our decision to reverse cuts to regional mental telehealth services. We know that ease of access is essential to people seeking support and Telehealth mental health services continue to be delivered to regional and remote Australians.

“Our Government is developing a free mental health check tool to prompt more people to have the important first conversation with their GP or health care provider to respond to mental ill health earlier. These findings will contribute to significant reforms to Australia’s mental health system and support improved access to appropriate mental health supports.”

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

“Almost half (46.6%) of young females and one third (31.2%) 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% (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%) had at least one consultation with a health professional for their mental health. In addition to these consultations, 4.4% (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.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Mental Health, Dr Ruth Vine, added “This is such an important insight into the state of mental health in Australia and will make a significant contribution to ongoing mental health reforms, including in service planning and workforce development.

Improving access to quality mental health care for priority populations of Australians experiencing higher rates of mental health disorders is central to improving and saving lives. Counselling and support services, including suicide prevention services are available, and programs are already underway to improve the skills of mental health providers to address the specific needs of the LGBTIQ+ community.”

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