The mental health of Australians 2

6.2 Prevalence of substance use disorders in different population sub-groups

Page last updated: May 2009

6.2.1 Sex and age
6.2.2 Social and demographic characteristics

6.2.1 Sex and age

Overall, males were more than twice as likely to have substance use disorders compared to females (7.0% compared to 3.3%), with this difference being true for alcohol harmful use, dependence and any drug use disorder. In relation to specific drug use disorders, both cannabis harmful use and dependence and stimulant harmful use were more common in males than in females (Table 6-1).

The prevalence of any substance use disorder declined with age. However, this decline was more gradual among males than females (Figure 6-1).

Figure 6-1: Prevalence of 12-month substance use disorders by age and sex

This graph is described in section 6.2.1
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6.2.2 Social and demographic characteristics

Substance use disorders were more likely to occur among those who were never married or in de facto relationships and those who were separated, widowed or divorced (7.5% and 7.0% respectively) compared to those who were married (3.5%) at the time of the interview. The prevalence of substance use disorders was highest among people who were unemployed (8.5%) compared to people who were employed and not in the labour force (5.5% and 4.9% respectively). The prevalence did not differ markedly for education. People who were born in Australia and other English speaking countries had higher levels of substance use disorders (6.0% and 4.4% respectively) than those born in non-English speaking countries (1.6%) (Table 6-2).

Table 6-2: Prevalence of 12-month substance use disorders by sex, marital status, labour force status, education and country of birth

Males (%)

Females (%)

Persons (%)

Marital status
Married/ de facto
5.5
2.0
3.5
Separated/ divorced/ widowed
10.8
3.6
7.0
Never married
9.9
4.8
7.5
Labour force status
Employed
7.2
3.4
5.5
Unemployed
13.3
4.4
8.5
Not in the labour force
8.3
3.1
4.9
Education
Post-school qualification
7.7
3.7
5.6
School qualification only
5.5
3.3
4.3
Did not complete school
8.6
4.5
6.5
Country of birth
Australia
8.4
3.7
6.0
Other English-speaking country
4.8
3.8
4.4
Non-English speaking country
2.0
1.3
1.6

Note: Numbers presented for marital status, labour force status and education are age-standardised.