SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- One in five Australian adults experience a mental illness every year.
- About 45 per cent of Australian adults will be affected by mental illness at some time in their life.
- Anxiety, mood disorders (such as depression) and substance use disorders are the most common mental illnesses experienced by Australian adults.
On this page
Mental illness is common. One in five Australians experience mental illness every year, and 45 per cent of Australian adults will be affected by mental illness at some time in their life.
Types of mental illness
Mental illness is a general term that refers to a group of illnesses that affect the brain. A mental illness is a health problem that significantly affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves, and interacts with other people. Mental illnesses are diagnosed according to standardised criteria.
The symptoms of mental illness may interfere with people's lives in different ways and to different degrees. The severity of mental disorders can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. This is based on what impact the symptoms have on someone’s home management, social life, ability to work and relationships.
The most common types of mental illness affecting Australians include:
- mood disorders (also known as affective disorders), such as depression andbipolar disorder
- In 2017–18, about 10% of Australians experienced depression or feelings of depression (11.6% of women and 9.1% of men were affected by depression)
- Bipolar I disorder may be experienced by up to 1% of Australians over their lifetime. The lifetime risk of bipolar II disorder is up to 5%
- anxiety disorders – in 2017, anxiety disorders affected 13% of the population
- psychotic illness – such as schizophrenia. In 2010, the second national survey of psychotic illness in found that about 0.4% of Australians (around 64,000 people) are affected by psychotic illness.
Living with more than one mental illness
Some people are affected by more than one mental illness. In 2017 in Australia, around 6% of people living with an anxiety disorder were also experiencing depression (1.5 million people).
Mental illness and increased risk of suicide
Mental illness is associated with an increased risk of suicide.
In 2017, the ABS released data relating to other health conditions that people were experiencing when they died by suicide (known as ‘suicide comorbidities’) or had suicidal thoughts. Eighty per cent of suicide deaths were reported as having comorbidities, and a significant proportion of these were related to mental health.
The following mental health conditions were found to be commonly comorbid with (present at the same time as) suicide and suicidal thoughts:
- mood disorders (including depression) – comorbid with 44% of all suicides
- mental and behavioural disorders due to psychoactive drug use – 29.4%
- anxiety and stress-related disorders –17.6 %
- schizophrenia and delusional disorders – 6.5%
- unspecified mental disorders – 5%
- personality disorders – 2.8%
- behavioural disorders usually occurring in childhood and adolescence – 1%.
Read more about suicide and mental illness.
Where to get help
- SANE Help Centre. Tel. 1800 18 SANE (7263) (Available Monday-Friday, 10am-10pm AEST).
- SANE Help Centre Chat live with a SANE Helpcentre Counsellor (Available Monday-Friday, 10am-10pm AEST).
- SANE Forums are full of people who want to talk to you and offer support.
- Your GP (Doctor)
- ‘Intentional self-harm, key characteristics’ in Causes of death, Australia, 2018, 2019, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
- Mental health services in Australia, 2019, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Government.
- Mental health in Australia: a quick guide, 2019, Parliament of Australia.
- Facts and figures about mental health, Black Dog Institute, Australia.
- Statistics, 2019, Beyond Blue, Australia.
- People living with psychotic illness 2010, Department of Health, Australian Government.
- Australia’s health 2018: in brief, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australian Government.
- 4102.0 – Australian social trends, March 2009, 2009, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Canberra.
- Mental health: key facts, Everymind, Australia.
- Mental ill-health: data and statistics, Mindframe, Australia.