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Frequency and quality of mental health treatment for affective and anxiety disorders among Australian adults

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Each year, 6% of Australian adults meet criteria for an affective disorder and 14% for an anxiety disorder.1 These disorders accounted for 52% of the burden of mental and substance misuse disorders and 7% of the overall burden of disease in Australia in 2010.2 Despite efficacious pharmacological and psychological interventions, this burden persists, partly because treatment coverage and quality are suboptimal.3 Monitoring treatment quality for these disorders may identify opportunities to improve health system performance and highlight populations at risk of inadequate care.

Reports from Australia’s first National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (NSMHWB) showed that, in 1997, 60% of adults with affective disorders and 35% with anxiety disorders had consulted a health professional for mental health in the previous year. Just over half of consultees reported receiving medicine or tablets (not further defined) or cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).3 One-third of consultees saw a general practitioner only.4 Sociodemographic factors including male sex, socioeconomic disadvantage and rurality were shown to influence the likelihood and type of mental health care received, independent of diagnosis.48