The mental health of Australians 2

Social networks and caregiving

Page last updated: May 2009

Social relationships and networks can act as protective factors against the onset or recurrence of mental health problems and enhance recovery from mental disorders. People who participated in the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing were asked about the regularity of their contact with family and friends. The survey also collected information on the care that they gave to family with mental and physical health problems.

Social networks

  • Almost two thirds (64.4%) of Australians aged 16-85 years are in contact with their families nearly every day. One quarter of the population (26.2%) were in contact with family at least once a week (figure 16).

  • The prevalence of mental disorders in females with less than weekly contact with family was one and a half times greater than for males (33.9% and 20.0%).

  • Most people have family members and friends they can rely on and confide in should they have a serious problem.

  • People with no family members on whom they could rely were more likely to have experienced mental disorders in the previous 12 months (33.4%) than people with 1-4 family members (21.0%).

  • A greater proportion of people were in contact with family nearly every day (64.4%) than were in contact with friends on a daily basis (42.7%). About two-fifths of people had contact with friends at least once a week (42.8%).

Caregiving

  • Of the total population, 12.8% of people had a relative with a mental disorder; 28.8% had a relative with a chronic physical health condition; and 26.3% had a relative with both a mental disorder and a chronic physical condition (figure 17).

  • Among people who have relatives with both a mental disorder and chronic physical condition, about two-fifths (40.6%) were in a caregiving role (figure 18).

  • The prevalence of mental disorders was higher in people who provided care to relatives with a mental disorder and a chronic physical condition (35.9%) and a mental disorder alone (35.1%), than people who provided care to relatives with a chronic physical condition only (19.3%).
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Figure 16: Prevalence of 12-month mental disorders in people with different amounts of contact with family and friends

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 16: Prevalence of 12-month mental disorders in people with different amounts of contact with family and friends

Text version of figure 16

Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.
Regularity of contactNearly every dayAt least once a weekLess than once a week
With friends
19.8
17.1
27.2
With family
19.0
19.8
25.0
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Figure 17: Proportion of population with a relative with a mental and/or physical disorder


Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 17: Proportion of population with a relative with a mental and/or physical disorder

Text version of figure 17

Proportion of population with a relative with a mental and/or physical disorder:
  • No relatives with a mental or physical disorder - 31.2%
  • Relatives with a mental disorder - 12.8%
  • Relatives with a physical disorder - 28.8%
  • Relatives with a mental and physical disorder - 26.3%
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Figure 18: Proportion of population in a caregiving role by the health status of the relative


Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 18: Proportion of population in a caregiving role by the health status of the relative

Text version of figure 18

Proportion of population in a care giving role by the health status of the relative:
  • Mental disorder - 32.3%
  • Physical disorder - 24.7%
  • Mental and physical disorder - 40.6%
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