The mental health of Australians 2

5.3 Impact of anxiety disorders

Page last updated: May 2009

5.3.1 Days out of role
5.3.2 Interference with life
5.3.3 Psychological distress

5.3.1 Days out of role

The number of days out of the previous 30 days that people were unable to perform their normal activities varied considerably between types of anxiety disorders (Table 5-3). The average number of days out of role for people with anxiety disorders was 4.4 days. Agoraphobia was associated with the highest number of days out of role (6.9 days) and social phobia with the lowest (4.7 days).

Table 5-3: Days out of role by type of 12-month anxiety disorder

Anxiety disorder

Days out of role in previous 30 days (mean)

Panic disorder
5.9
Agoraphobia
6.9
Social phobia
4.7
Generalised anxiety disorder
6.3
Posttraumatic stress disorder
4.9
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
6.3
Any anxiety disorder
4.4

Note: Total is lower than the sum of disorders as people may have had more than one type of anxiety disorder.

Top of page

5.3.2 Interference with life

Interference with life was assessed separately for each type of anxiety disorder across four domains, which capture different aspects of people's lives (home responsibilities, work or study, close relationships and social life). Table 5-4 shows the percentage of people who reported severe or very severe interference in each of these four domains.

Generalized anxiety disorder was associated with the highest level of interference, with almost half (48.0%) of people with generalized anxiety disorder experiencing severe or very severe interference in at least one of the four domains of life.

Generally, social life was the domain in which most people experienced severe or very severe interference due to their anxiety disorder (ranging from 13.6% for posttraumatic stress disorder through to 37.8% for generalized anxiety disorder), followed by interference with close relationships (ranging from 10.7% for posttraumatic stress disorder through to 31.8% for generalized anxiety disorder). The exception to this was panic disorder, for which a higher proportion of people experienced severe or very severe interference with work or study (28.4%).

Table 5-4: Proportion of people with severe or very severe interference across different life domains by type of 12-month anxiety disorder

Disorder

Home (%)

Work or study (%)

Close relationships (%)

Social life (%)

Any domain (%)

Panic disorder
17.6
28.4
17.3
22.8
37.7
Agoraphobia
18.7
19.1
22.4
27.0
34.5
Social phobia
7.7
9.1
15.9
18.0
20.0
Generalized anxiety disorder
24.1
24.2
31.8
37.8
48.0
Posttraumatic stress disorder
9.6
10.7
10.7
13.6
20.0
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
10.7
9.7
14.5
16.2
24.7

Note: Any domain is lower than the sum of individual domains as people may have experienced severe or very severe interference in more than one life domain.

Top of page

5.3.3 Psychological distress

The proportion of people with each type of anxiety disorder reporting each of the four levels of psychological distress, as scored on the Kessler 10 scale (K10), is presented in Table 5-5. Levels of psychological distress differed depending on the type of anxiety disorder.

High or very high psychological distress was experienced by 55.0% of people with agoraphobia and 53.2% of people with generalized anxiety disorder, whereas two thirds (69.1%) of people with posttraumatic stress disorder experienced low to moderate levels of psychological distress.

Table 5-5: Proportion of people with each psychological distress (K10) level by type of 12-month anxiety disorder

Disorder

Low (%)

Moderate (%)

High (%)

Very high (%)

Panic disorder
24.9
27.3
27.8
20.0
Agoraphobia
20.7
24.3
31.9
23.1
Social phobia
24.2
35.8
22.5
17.4
Generalized anxiety disorder
15.1
31.7
29.4
23.8
Posttraumatic stress disorder
41.1
28.0
19.0
12.0
Obsessive-compulsive disorder
33.6
25.0
23.7
17.7
Any anxiety disorder
35.3
31.4
21.3
11.9

Note: Totals are lower than the sum of disorders as people may have had more than one type of anxiety disorder.