Mental health issues increasing among Australians

Paul Hayes

30/09/2019 2:49:32 PM

The latest ABS National Health Survey has revealed higher levels of anxiety, psychological distress and depression among millions of Australians.

Examining the mind
One in five Australians reported a mental or behavioural condition in 2017–18.

Anxiety and depression rates continue to creep upwards, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) National Health Survey: First Results, 2017–18.
The survey found increased rates of mental illness in several areas:

  • Around one in eight adults (13%) experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2017–18 – an increase from 11.7% (or 2.1 million adults) in 2014–15.
  • One in five Australians (20.1%) reported a mental or behavioural condition in 2017–18 – an increase from 17.5% (four million Australians) in 2014–15.
  • Around one in eight Australians (13.1%) had an anxiety-related condition in 2017–18 – an increase from 11.2% in 2014–15.
  • One in 10 people (10.4%) had depression or feelings of depression in 2017–18 – an increase from 8.9% in 2014–15.
The survey paints a clear overall picture of the ‘typical’ Australian: a non-smoker who has never smoked, does 42 minutes of exercise every day, is overweight or obese, and does not eat enough vegetables.
Two-thirds of Australians (67%) were overweight or obese in 2017–18, up from 63.4% in 2014–15, with a notable increase in people aged 18–24 (46% in 2017–18 from 38.9% in 2014–15).
According to ABS Director of Health Statistics Louise Gates, the typical Australian male weighed 87kg and stood 175 cm tall, and was therefore overweight; while the typical female weighed 72kg and was 161 cm tall, and was also overweight.
‘On average, we were doing 42 minutes of exercise every day, which mostly consisted of walking for transport or walking for exercise [24.6 minutes]; however, we didn’t participate in sufficient strength and toning activities,’ Ms Gates said. ‘In addition, 44% of us spent most of our work day sitting.’
‘More than half of us were eating the recommended daily intake of fruit, but not enough vegetables, with only 7.5% of adults eating the recommended daily serves of vegetables.’
The survey found that almost half of all Australians (47.3%) had one or more chronic conditions in 2017–18, up from 42.2% in 2007–08.
Mental health was also at the top of the list of chronic conditions in 2017–18:
  • Mental and behavioural conditions – 4.8 million people (20.1%)
  • Back problems – four million people (16.4%)
  • Arthritis – 3.6 million people (15%)
  • Asthma – 2.7 million people (11.2%)
  • Diabetes mellitus – 1.2 million people (4.9%)
  • Heart, stroke and vascular disease – 1.2 million people (4.8%)
  • Osteoporosis – 924,000 people (3.8%)
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – 598,800 people (2.5%)
  • Cancer – 432,400 people (1.8%)
  • Kidney disease – 237,800 people (1%)
Overall, more than half of Australians (56.4%) aged 15 and older said they considered themselves to be in excellent or very good health, while 14.7% reported being in fair or poor health. These numbers have remained constant over the last decade.

ABS anxiety mental health survey

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