How common are mental health disorders?

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In Australia, mental disorders are the third leading cause of burden of disease following cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) [56]. Research conducted on the general population indicates that approximately one in two people will develop a mental disorder at some point in their life [50, 57, 58]. The 2007 Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (NSMHWB) found that more than 41% of Australian adults (45% of men and 38% of women) had experienced a substance use, anxiety, or mood disorder in their lifetime [50]. The projected lifetime prevalence of these disorders is 28%, 25%, and 23% respectively [59]. Just over 10% of Australian adults had experienced two classes of mental disorders, and just over 4% had experienced three [50].

The 2007 NSMHWB also found that one in five Australian adults (18% of men and 22% of women) had a substance use, anxiety, or mood disorder in the past year, representing close to 3.2 million Australian adults [58]. Approximately 25% of people with mental disorders were found to have two or more classes of mental disorder [18]. The prevalence of single and comorbid substance use, anxiety, and affective (i.e., mood) disorders among Australian men and women from the NSMHWB is depicted in Figure 4. The overlapping portions of the circles indicate the proportion of the population who have co-occurring disorders. For example, 1.3% of men and 0.8% of women have a substance use and anxiety disorder only.

Figure 4: Prevalence (%) of single and comorbid DSM-IV affective, anxiety and substance use disorders amongst Australian males (left) and females (right) in the past year

Figure 4: Male
Figure 4: Female

      Source: Teesson et al. [18].