Mental health of Australians

November 18, 2009

Here’s my summary of the 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing

This was a national face-to-face household survey of 8841 (60% response rate) community residents aged between 16 and 85. And the main points were:

• Nearly half of all Australians (45.5%) have experienced a mental disorder in their lifetimeOne in five Australians had experienced a mental disorder in the past 12 months

Anxiety disorders (14.4% in past 12 months) were the most common class of mental disorder. 6.2% had experienced mood disorders in past year (ie depression, bipolar disorder) 5.1% had experienced substance use disorders in past year

Disability: Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, were disabling. On average, people with a mental disorder experienced nearly 4 days per month when they were unable to perform some or all of their usual activities. People with an anxiety disorder had 4 days out of role, people with a substance use disorder had 3 days out of role, while people with a mood disorder had 6 days out of role.

Comorbidity: One in four people (25.4%) with mental disorders in the past 12 month had more than one class of mental disorder. • One-third (34.9%) of people with a mental disorder (about 7% of population) used health services for mental health problems in the 12 months prior to the interview.

Females had a higher rates of depression & anxiety disorders • Males had higher rates of substance use disorders

Young adults: 25% (age 16-24) had experienced a mental disorder in the past 12 months, and young adults are the least likely group to access health services (22%)

• the prevalence of mental disorders declined with age

Service use: Females were more likely to use services than males. Those with mood disorders were most likely to make use of services (58.6%), followed by those with anxiety (37.8%) and substance use disorders (24.0%), respectively. 2.6% received treatment from a hospital, whereas 35% consulted a community-based provider – particularly general practitioners and psychologists. People aged 45-54 most likely to access services (42%)

• Comparison with 1997 Survey: It would appear that the 12 month prevalence of any anxiety disorder is higher in the 2007 NSMHWB (14.4%) compared to the 1997 NSMHWB (9.7%, 3). Although this may reflect a true change in prevalence over time, it may also be explained, at least in part, by differences in the two instruments used in the two surveys.

• The results of the survey place Australia as a country with one of the highest rates of mental disorder worldwide, in line with other developed countries such as the USA (26.2%, 25) and New Zealand (20.7%, 26).

• As was found in the Australian survey, anxiety disorders were the most common class of mental disorder in both the USA and New Zealand surveys. The prevalence of mood disorder was lower in the Australian survey compared to the USA and the New Zealand surveys. In contrast, the prevalence of substance use disorder was higher in the Australian survey compared to both the USA and New Zealand surveys.

Limitations: the survey interview does not attempt to detect low-prevalence and difficult-to-assess mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, personality disorders and dementia. Homeless people, people resident in nursing homes, hostels, and hospices and those in prison or other corrective service facilities were not surveyed • There was a lower than expected response rate (60%) which has implications for the validity of any estimates of the survey


One Response to “Mental health of Australians”

  1. gbroughto Says:

    So. Are we still going to co-author that article on Mental Health and Community? I’m up for it…

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