Mental health problems – occur often as a result of life stressors. Mental health problems also have a negative impact on a person’s cognitive, emotional and social abilities but may not meet the criteria for an illness. The distinction between mental health problems and mental disorders is not well defined and is made on the basis of severity and duration of symptoms3.
A Note on Interpreting Facts and Statistics
Statistics on mental illness are usually reported in terms of incidence or prevalence.
Incidence – is the number of cases identified in a given period, usually a year. Incidence rate is usually expressed per 100 000 population.
Prevalence – is the proportion or percentage of the population with the disease or disorder.
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An overview of mental illness in Australia
Unless otherwise stated the statistics in this section are from the 1997 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing4.
How many people are affected by mental illness in Australia?
Mental illness is common in Australia with one in five Australians experiencing a mental illness at some stage in their lives, and many experiencing more than one mental illness at one time.
Prevalence of mental illness decreases with age. Prevalence (including substance use disorder) is greatest among 18-24 year olds (27%) while prevalence among people 65 years and over is 6.1%.
Mental disorders are the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia, accounting for an estimated 27% of the total years lost due to disability5. Major depression accounts for more days lost to illness than almost any other physical or mental disorder6.
How common are specific disorders?
About 10 % of Australians will be affected by anxiety disorders at some point in their life7.
About 20% of people will be affected by depression and 6% will experience a major depressive illness8.
Postnatal depression affects between 10 to 20% of all new mothers to some degree9.
3% of Australians are...