Impact and burden of mental illness
Mental illness affects all Australians either directly or indirectly. Mental illness can vary in severity and be episodic or persistent in nature. An estimated 1 in 5 Australians experience mental illness in any given year, most of which will be mild (15% or an estimated 2.3 million Australians among the 15.3 million Australians) or moderate (7%, or an estimated 1.2 million people). It is estimated that around 5% or 800,000 people have a severe mental illness, of which 500,000 people have episodic mental illness and 300,000 have persistent mental illness (Productivity Commission 2020).
Burden of disease
Mental and substance use disorders, such as Depression, Anxiety and Drug use, are important drivers of disability and morbidity. The most recent Australian Burden of Disease Study (2018) examined the health loss due to disease and injury that is not improved by current treatment, rehabilitative and preventative efforts of the health system and society. For Australia, Mental and substance use disorders were estimated to be responsible for 13% of the total burden of disease in 2015, placing it 4th as a broad disease group after Cancer (18%), Musculoskeletal conditions (13%) and Cardiovascular diseases (14%) (AIHW 2021).
In terms of the non-fatal burden of disease, which is a measure of the number of years of ’healthy’ life lost due to living with a disability, Mental and substance use disorders were the 2nd largest contributor (24%) of the non-fatal burden of disease in Australia, behind Musculoskeletal conditions (25%) (AIHW 2021).
There is an association between diagnosis of mental illness and a physical disorder, often referred to as a ‘comorbid' disorder. From the 2007 NSMHWB of adults, 1 in 8 (12%) of people with a 12-month mental illness also reported a physical condition, with 1 in 20 (5%) reporting 2 or more physical conditions (ABS 2008).
According to the 2010 National Psychosis Survey, people with a psychotic illness also frequently experience poor physical health outcomes and comorbidities. For example, over one-quarter (27%) of survey participants had heart or circulatory conditions and over one-fifth (21%) had diabetes (compared with 16% and 6% respectively in the general population). This prevalence of Diabetes is more than 3 times the rate seen in the general population. Other comorbidities included Epilepsy (7% compared with 1% in the general population) and Severe headaches/migraines (25% compared with 9% in the general population) (Morgan et al. 2011).
Where do I go for more information?
More information on mental health can be found at:
|Burden of disease
||Burden of disease is measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) – years of life lost due to premature mortality (fatal burden) and years of healthy life lost due to poor health (non-fatal burden).
||Comorbidity refers to occurrence of more than 1 condition/disorder at the same time.
||Prevalence measures the proportion of a population with a particular condition during a specified period of time (period/point prevalence), usually measured over a 12-month period or over the lifetime of an individual (lifetime prevalence).