Every year, about 1 in 5 Australians will experience a mental health condition of some form. With the changes introduced from COVID-19 and various other social factors, there has been a strong push from the Australian government and the Department of Health towards investing in research regarding mental health support services. This research is used for helping people with mental health conditions, to better understand how mental health varies between people. Mental Health and wellbeing are subjects that must be taken seriously when discussing the people who are affected by it daily.
In today’s blog, we will be exploring the most recent statistics around mental health in Australia, covering a wide selection of groups, demographics, and mental health conditions.
Disclaimer: The following article explores topics such as depression, death, suicide, self-harm, and substance misuse. If you are sensitive to any of these topics, continue reading at your discretion.
Quick Mental Health Statistics
As stated earlier, one in five Australian citizens will experience mental or behavioural conditions each year. According to findings from a recent national survey of mental health from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 20% of Australians in the younger age groups (between the age of 16-34) experienced varying high levels of mental distress, almost doubling that of elderly people aged 65-85.
The findings also demonstrated that over most age groups, more women experienced high psychological distress levels than men by 19%. Meanwhile, only 12% of men were found to be experiencing high psychological distress.
This is only a fraction of the Australian population (15%) currently experiencing some form of mental health problems. As we will be exploring, mental health is something that greatly differs from person to person.
The general state of Mental Health in Australia
Since 2020, there has been a growing number of people within Australia making use of established mental health services. Around 3.4 million people (between 16-85) have consulted with a mental health professional in the past two years. Of this group, 13% spoke with a GP about their mental health, whilst 8% of people saw a psychologist about their mental health. What’s more, close to 612,000 Australians made use of online mental health care services (i.e. counselling services, online treatment services, support groups, etc.) for their mental health.
Within Australia, close to 15% of the population expressed that they feel lonely or isolated within four weeks, whilst almost 16% revealed that they were affected by at least one or more financial stressors (e.g. bills piling up, unpaid expenses, gambling, etc.)
However, in the past two years, more than 61% of Australians reported having at least one strategy to manage their mental health. For some, it was doing more of the activities they enjoy doing, whilst for others, it was through practicing open-mindedness and thinking positively. Meanwhile, 37% of people in the survey claimed they were partaking in physical exercise and living a healthy life in general, to manage their mental health.
Stats by Type of Mental Illness
Depression is a mood condition that is currently affecting more than 10% of Australians today. People experiencing depression, or feelings of depression, often have difficulty with finding motivation in performing tasks, and generally experience an overwhelming sense of sadness in their daily life. In a recent national health survey of mental health, it was found that more women (11.6%) were diagnosed with depression than men (9.1%).
Bipolar Disorders are another common type of mental illness currently affecting Australians. Surprisingly, bipolar disorders are not as common an occurrence as some mood disorders (i.e. depression), making them a rare condition in Australia. Currently, only 1% of people in Australia will be diagnosed with a bipolar I disorder in their lifetime, often experiencing a range of manic and depressive episodes. On the other hand, bipolar II disorder is slightly more likely, with the lifetime risk of Australians being diagnosed being around 5%. To compare the two, bipolar II is often milder than bipolar I, when it comes to the intensity of mood swings.
Every year, around 2 million Australians are affected by anxiety disorders. That is almost 14% of the population who would experience an anxiety-related condition of some form. In retrospect, this is a much lower percentage than what was recorded a decade ago, with around 26% of Australians experiencing an anxiety disorder.
This drop represents a hopeful insight into how attitudes around anxiety have changed in the last decade, with more emphasis being taken by mental health services towards informing the effects anxiety-related conditions have on people’s general health and wellbeing.
Earlier in the article, we discovered that women experienced higher levels of mental distress than men. To recap, around 19% of Women in Australia have reported experiencing high mental distress in some form. Earlier reports claimed that more younger women, between the ages of 18-24, experienced the highest levels of psychological distress compared to any other age group.
Additionally, almost 1 in 7 women in Australia report experiencing an anxiety-related condition. This represents about 15% within the past 3 years.
To further recap, fewer men were found to experience high distress rates than women. Only 12% of men were found in the last year to be experiencing a mental or behavioural condition.
However, Australian men are still more vulnerable to commit suicide, making up 3 out of every 4 suicide-related deaths in Australia. A recent survey from the Bureau of Statistics in 2020 found that Australian men are three times more likely to die by suicide than women, with over 2,500 suicide deaths recorded among males in 2020, compared to female deaths which were around 816.
Mental Illness And Suicide
When correlating the effect mental health illnesses have on suicide rates, what is important to understand is that mental health and behavioural disorders are often linked to an increased risk of attempted suicide. In 2019 alone, there were 3,318 deaths by suicide. One year later, in a national survey done by the Bureau of Statistics into causes of death in Australia, studies showed that of all suicide deaths recorded in 2020, around 90% of those people had high-risk conditions, such as feelings of depression, or substance use disorders. Suicide was ranked as the 15th leading cause of death in 2020.
When observing recorded deaths of Indigenous Australians, it was reported that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were twice as likely to die by suicide than non-indigenous Australians.
Due to the nature of these statistics, it helps to understand that no suicide is caused by one sole factor, but rather a complex culmination of stressors in society that can affect an individual’s mental health. In response, the Australian government aims to invest over $6.3 billion into suicide prevention services in the next year, to help provide more support and research directed towards people who are struggling with their mental health.
Whilst most Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex people live healthy lives, studies show that they are more likely to experience higher levels of psychological distress than other Australians. Currently, in Australia, LGBTQI+ people are 2.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition in the past year. These statistics become more prevalent in younger people, with 63.8% of LGBTQI+ people (aged 14-21) reporting to have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. Compared to the general Australian population, LGBTI people are six times more likely to experience/ be diagnosed with depression. 48% of younger LGBTI people have been recorded as being diagnosed with depression.
High levels of distress in LGBTI+ people can often increase their risk of mental disorders and suicide. Young people, aged 16-17, were almost 3 times more likely to attempt suicide in the last year alone. Transgender people reported being fifteen times more likely to have attempted self-harm. In the last year alone, 48% of young transgender people (14-21) have reported having attempted suicide in their lifetime.
Mental Health affects many different people in many different demographics. The prevalence of mental health within groups and communities often depends on a variety of societal factors, such as financial issues, discrimination, substance misuse, and spousal relations amongst other factors.
There is no one way to treat someone with a mental health condition, as everyone’s situation or mental health disorder is unique. By encouraging the Australian government (as well as other state and territory governments) to continue funding research in this area, it can lead to the provision of better support services for those who are experiencing mental health conditions.
In 2022, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is expected to release a new national health survey on mental health. The national study aims to fill the gaps in our country’s current understanding of mental health, and overall assess the effects that COVID-19 has had on people’s mental health in recent years. If you, or someone you know, experience some form of mental health condition, it’s important to know that help is always available to you.
You can find a full list of Australian Mental Health websites, hotlines, and support services via this link.
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