The mental health of Australians 2

Prevalence of mental disorders in the Australian population

Page last updated: May 2009

The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing provides information on the prevalence of mental disorders in the Australian population. The prevalence of mental disorders is the proportion of people in the population who meet criteria for a diagnosis of a mental disorder at a given point in time.

  • Almost half of the total population (45.5%) experienced a mental disorder at some point in their lifetime (figure 1).

  • One in five (20.0%) Australians aged 16-85 years experienced mental disorders in the previous 12 months (figure 1). This is equivalent to almost 3.2 million Australians.

  • One in 16 (6.2%) had affective (mood) disorders; one in seven (14.4%) had anxiety disorders; and one in 20 (5.1%) had substance use disorders (figure 2).

  • Based on these prevalence rates, it is estimated that nearly 1 million Australians had affective disorders, over 2.3 million had anxiety disorders and over 800,000 had substance use disorders in the previous 12 months.

  • Females were more likely than males to have experienced mental disorders in the 12 months prior to the survey (22.3% compared to 17.6%) (figure 3).

  • Similarly, females were more likely than males to have experienced anxiety disorders (17.9% compared with 10.8%) and affective disorders (7.1% compared with 5.3%).

  • However, males were more than twice as likely as females to have experienced substance use disorders (7.0% compared with 3.3%).

  • The prevalence of mental disorders declines with age from more than one in four (26.4%) in the youngest age group (16-24 years) to around one in twenty (5.9%) in the oldest age group (75-85 years).

  • A number of other social factors were strongly associated with having mental disorders in the previous 12 months, including not being married or in a defacto relationship, level of education and not being in the labour force.Top of page

Figure 1: Overall mental health status of Australian aged 16-85 years

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 1: Overall mental health status of Australian aged 16-85 years

Text version of figure 1

The top level of this chart shows total persons aged 16-85 years: 16,015,300 (100%). This box is split into two parts:
  • Any lifetime mental disorder: 7,286,600 (45%) and
  • No lifetime mental disorder: 8,725,700 (55%)
The "any lifetime mental disorder" box is split into two parts:
  • Any 12-month mental disorder: 3,197,800 (20%) and
  • No 12-month mental disorder: 4,088,800 (25%)
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Figure 2: Proportion of the Australian population with anxiety, affective and substance use disorders in the previous 12 months

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 2: Proportion of the Australian population with anxiety, affective and substance use disorders in the previous 12 months
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Text version of figure 2

Proportion of the Australian population with the following disorders:
  • affective disorders - 6.2%
  • anxiety disorders - 14.4%
  • substance use disorders - 5.1%

Figure 3: Prevalence of mental disorders in the previous 12 months by age and sex

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 3: Prevalence of mental disorders in the previous 12 months by age and sex

Text version of figure 3

This graph shows prevalence (%) on the vertical axis and age group along the horizontal axis, with data shown for both males and females. No figures are provided, but the graph shows that:
  • Prevalence of mental disorders in the previous 12 months is highest in the youngest age group (16-24 years), generally decreasing for each older group (except that males aged 25-34 have approximately the same prevalence of mental disorders as does the youngest age group), with the lowest prevalence in the oldest age group (75+ years)
  • Prevalence of mental disorders in the previous 12 months is higher for females than for males in all age groups.
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