The mental health of Australians 2

2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing highlights

Page last updated: May 2009

The second National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing was conducted in 2007 to provide updated evidence on the prevalence of mental illness in the Australian population, the amount of associated disability, comorbidity of mental disorders and comorbidity of mental disorders and chronic physical conditions, and the use of health services by people with mental disorders.

  • The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing is a general household survey of the adult population aged 16-85 years, which was conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics from August to December 2007.

  • The three main questions the survey aimed to address were:

    1. How many Australians have which mental disorders?
    2. What impact do mental disorders have on people, their families and society?
    3. How many people have used services and what services have they used?

  • The survey instrument was based on the latest version of the WMH-CIDI, used in 28 other countries. Modules were selected from this instrument, adapted or written specifically for the survey as appropriate to the survey aims and the Australian cultural context.

  • The 2007 survey included a series of diagnostic modules that determined whether an individual was sufficiently unwell to be diagnosed with a mental disorder if he or she were to be assessed by a clinician using the ICD-10or DSM-IV.

  • The focus was on the more common or high prevalence mental disorders, namely:

    • Affective (mood) disorders
      • Depressive episode
      • Dysthymia
      • Bipolar affective disorder

    • Anxiety disorders
      • Panic disorder
      • Agoraphobia
      • Social phobia
      • Generalized anxiety disorder
      • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
      • Posttraumatic stress disorder

    • Substance use disorders
      • Alcohol harmful use (abuse)
      • Alcohol dependence
      • Drug use disorders

  • Information was collected on some 3,500 data items covering the following:

    • prevalence of mental disorders in the Australian population across people's lifetimes and in the previous 12 months
    • socio-demographic characteristics of people who did and did not have mental disorders
    • use of health services for mental health problems, both consultations with health practitioners and hospital admissions
    • medications used for mental health problems
    • extent of chronic physical conditions focussing on the National Health Priority Areas of diabetes, asthma, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and arthritis
    • comorbidity of mental disorders and mental disorders comorbid with physical conditions
    • social networks and
    • caregiving.

  • A number of scales were also included to determine the impact of mental disorders:

    • a composite severity measure of the impact on daily life of all mental disorders experienced by an individual
    • levels of psychological distress as measured by the Kessler 10 (K10)
    • Sheehan Disability Scales measuring the interference with life across four domains (household maintenance, work or study, close relationships and social life) and
    • days out of role capturing the impact of mental and physical health conditions on people's ability to function in their day-to-day roles.

  • This survey follows the first National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing conducted in 1997, which provided the first evidence of the prevalence of mental illness in the Australian population and directed government initiatives in mental health, particularly the focus on primary care.

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