Is the prevalence of mental illness increasing in Australia? Evidence from national health surveys and administrative data, 2001–2014
The known The rising cost of mental disorders has been interpreted as indicating that the prevalence of mental health problems is increasing.
The new The prevalence of probable common mental disorders in Australia was fairly stable between 2001 and 2014. Over this same period, however, the number of working age individuals receiving disability support pensions for psychiatric conditions increased by about 50%.
The implications While the costs and level of disability associated with mental disorders is rising, there has been no corresponding change in the prevalence of probable common mental disorders in Australia.
It is popularly believed that we are in the midst of an epidemic of mental health problems.1 The most recent Global Burden of Diseases study found that the number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) attributed to mental disorders increased by 37% between 1990 and 2010, with depression becoming the fourth highest cause of disability in Australia.2 Studies in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have found that rates of antidepressant prescribing have more than doubled in recent decades.3