The disparity between changes in the prevalence of mental illness and disability support rates in Australia

Harvey A Whiteford
Med J Aust 2017; 206 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/mja17.00274
Published online: 19 June 2017

Clarifying the type of support needed by people with a psychiatric disability must be a priority

One major focus of Australia’s national mental health strategy has been to increase access to treatment for those with common mental disorders, particularly anxiety and depressive disorders. Despite indications that treatment rates have increased in Australia,1 there is little evidence that the population prevalence of these disorders has declined, a phenomenon also reported in other high income countries where increased treatment has been made available.2

  • 1 University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD
  • 2 Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, Brisbane, QLD
  • 3 Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington, Seattle, USA


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Whiteford HA, Buckingham WJ, Harris MG, et al. Estimating treatment rates for mental disorders in Australia. Aust Health Rev 2014; 38: 80-85.
  • 2. Jorm AF, Patten SB, Brugha TS, et al. Has increased provision of treatment reduced the prevalence of common mental disorders? Review of the evidence from four countries. World Psychiatry 2017; 16: 90-99.
  • 3. Harvey SB, Deady M, Wang M-J, et al. Is the prevalence of mental illness increasing in Australia? Evidence from national health surveys and administrative data, 2001–2014. Med J Aust 2017; 206: 490-493.
  • 4. Slade T, Johnson A, Oakley-Browne MA, et al. 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: methods and key findings. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2009; 43: 594-605.
  • 5. Baxter AJ, Scott K, Ferrari AJ, et al. Challenging the myth of an “epidemic” of common mental disorders: trends in the global prevalence of anxiety and depression between 1990 and 2010. Depress Anxiety 2014; 31: 506-516.
  • 6. Morgan VA, Waterreus A, Jablensky A, et al. People living with psychotic illness in 2010: the second Australian national survey of psychosis. Aust N Z J Psychiatry 2012; 46: 735-752.
  • 7. Parliament of Australia. The provision of services under the NDIS for people with psychosocial disabilities related to a mental health condition. Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS — Mental Health Terms of Reference [webpage]. (accessed Mar 2017).


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