Depression Australia Statistics

Depression Australia Statistics

One in five Australian citizens experiences a mental or behavioral condition every year. According to findings from a recent national survey of mental health from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 20% of Australians in the younger age groups (between the age of 16-34) experienced varying high levels of mental distress, almost doubling that of elderly people aged 65-85.

The findings also demonstrated that over most age groups, more women experience high psychological distress levels than men by 19%. Meanwhile, only 12% of men were found to be experiencing high psychological distress.

Since 2020, there has been a growing number of people within Australia making use of established mental health services. Around 3.4 million people (between 16-85) have consulted with a mental health professional in the past two years. Of this group, 13% spoke with a GP about their mental health, whilst 8% of people saw a psychologist about their mental health. Furthermore, close to 612,000 Australians made use of online mental health care services (i.e. counselling services, online treatment services, support groups, etc.) for their mental health.

The prevalence of major depressive disorder in Australia

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that 2.1 million Australians, or 9.3 per cent of our population, were suffering from some form of depression. On average, around 1 in 6 people – 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men – will experience MDD at some point in their lives.

Problems with anxiety at the same time are also common, for instance involving panic disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) or Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

How much is spent on Mental Health Services in Australia?

In Australia, there are two notable studies that address both the direct (medical) and indirect costs of high prevalence mental disorders (depression, anxiety-related and substance use)8 and the low prevalent condition of psychosis using cross-sectional survey data. Lee et al estimated the total annual productivity losses of depression, anxiety-related and substance use to be AU$11.8 billion, together with annual income tax losses of AU$1.2 billion and welfare payments of AU$12.9 billion in 2007.8 And for psychosis, Neil et al estimated the productivity costs to be AU$40 941 and other indirect costs (for example non-government organisation assistance, supported employment and accommodation) to be AU$14 642 per affected individual. However, there has been little research undertaken on quantifying the longer-term indirect costs of mental illness in Australia.

Is depression the most common mental illness in Australia

In their lifetimes, about one in five Australians will experience depression.

Around the world, depression affects around 300 million people.

Depression is the most commonly experienced mental health challenge for young people aged between 12-25 years old.

There are different types of depression:

  • Major Depressive Disorder: the most common type of depression people face. It refers to when depressive symptoms last for more than two weeks.
  • Chronic Depression or Persistent Depressive Disorder: this form of depression lasts longer and is diagnosed when someone’s been experiencing symptoms most days for at least two years.
  • Bipolar Disorder: People who experience this condition experience moods that can shift significantly. They can experience periods of depression for weeks, followed by periods of mania (an extremely elevated mood).
  • Seasonal Depression: this form of depression is where feelings of sadness and tiredness can occur in yearly cycles depending on the weather patterns around them. Usually it will affect people during winter months, and lift during spring and summer. It’s more common in cold climates which experience less daylight during winter months.

Who can diagnose depression Australia

Your GP…

Who is most at risk of depression in Australia


  • Genetic factors: having a close family member with a mental illness can increase the risk. However, just because one family member has a mental illness doesn’t mean that others will.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse: illicit drug use can trigger a manic episode (bipolar disorder) or an episode of psychosis. Drugs such as cocaine, marijuana and amphetamines can cause paranoia.
  • Other biological factors: some medical conditions or hormonal changes.
  • Early life environment: negative childhood experiences such as abuse or neglect can increase the risk of some mental illnesses.
  • Trauma and stress: in adulthood, traumatic life events or ongoing stress such as social isolation, domestic violence, relationship breakdown, financial or work problems can increase the risk of mental illness. Traumatic experiences such as living in a war zone can increase the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Personality factors: some traits such as perfectionism or low self-esteem can increase the risk of depression or anxiety.

Who is at the least risk for depression

A person who goes through experiences as listed above and does not get depressed has a measure of what in the psychiatric trade is known as “resilience”.

But what is this resilience? Is it something we inherit or do we learn it? Can it be traced in the chemistry of the brain? Or in its wiring, or its electrical activity? And if we lack it, can we acquire it?

The answer, regrettably, to all those questions is much the same. We don’t really know.

Short answer: we don’t really know.

Longer answer: do they? Is it even true that some people never experience depression of any kind? Who’s to say one person’s experience of a few weeks of lethargy, apathy, overeating, etc, is what someone else would call depression in denial? Where the person themselves would just say that this is what happens to them from time to time, it’s how they reboot themselves, and after some time they might be able to get back to living as before. They’d never consider it as depression. But maybe they could be convinced that the emotion they are experiencing is indeed called depression.

I would certainly argue it is the case that everyone I have come across has experienced and does experience this “depression” as an emotion, within their normal range of emotions. In response to certain stressors, perhaps.

So then, maybe you ask, why does this become debilitating in some people, to the point of them seeking medical advice, and not for others? Perhaps, what leads someone to end up with a diagnosis of a depressive disorder?

Firstly, there are several factors that will influence how the person experiences depression (as an emotion) and deals with it in the first place. Some factors are genetic, as others point out, though it is unclear how much of an influence inheritance has; depressive disorders do indeed seem to run in families, to an extent.

Other factors, which seem to be more important, include what are known as “adverse childhood experiences” or ACEs. Basically, if you suffered from a whole host of things like poverty, parental divorce, domestic abuse, bullying, for example, you have a much higher risk of developing depression, as well as countless other problems like becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence, and obesity, diabetes, etc. It isn’t really clear how each of these ACEs influences your future behaviour based on the evidence, but to me it seems somewhat obvious that the more screwed up your upbringing, the more screwed up your ways of thinking and habits will be and continue to be. You’re not going to have very strong health, including mental health, if instead of being taught to face adversity with resilience, you are taught that no matter what you have no control over your surroundings (eg a violent parent). That’s a difficult mindset to break out of, even once you’re out of that environment 20 years later. The habits and patterns you learn in childhood are incredibly die-hard.

So these genetic and early environmental factors basically seem to influence the amount of emotional resilience you learn to have as you progress through life. To me it seems that this is the most important factor in developing things like depressive disorders in the longer term. How do you cope with stresses, and other emotions? Can you manage them effectively so they do not overwhelm you? And this can certainly be changed later on in life, and by other factors than I have mentioned already. This doesn’t of course take into account things like shift work, sleep deprivation, chronic illness – these are all things that can increase your susceptibility and reduce your resilience. And things that can improve it later in life include physical activity, group or community participation, regular sleep…

Finally, I will touch on something that influences how one’s experiences are perceived and therefore whether they will be diagnosed with a depressive disorder: their culture. The characteristics of depression as a disease are very much culturally defined. Maybe in some cultural backgrounds, somebody exhibiting classic signs of what we call depression might be encouraged to take a break from life and go and live with a mentor for some time. Maybe this person will make them work on their emotions, meditate, become “connected to God”, engage in physically taxing work, and “realise their purpose” (another important point related to the building of resilience). And they would not be seen as depressed, but as someone who “lost their way”. So in this culture, people would never “get depression”. Maybe they’d just continue living as a monk for the rest of their lives, and if they came back to normal life everyone else would think they were still “lost” and we in this part of the world would call them depressed.

Who is at risk for major depressive disorder

According to the Black Dog Institute major depressive disorder can be found in those with low self-esteem, who have a poor outlook, or who feel overwhelmed by stress. Depression is also more common in people with anxiety or other mental health problems. Teens who have tried to self-harm by the age of 16 have a higher risk of having depression by the time they’re young adults.

Risk factors for depression:

  • family history and genetics
  • chronic stress
  • history of trauma
  • gender
  • poor nutrition
  • unresolved grief or loss
  • personality traits
  • medication and substance use.
  • biochemical factors (brain chemistry)
  • illness
  • ageing
  • long-term pressures such as abusive relationships, bullying and work stress

Postnatal depression help in Australia

For help with postnatal depression a visit to your GP is a great place to start. For those that have difficulty getting an appointment with them an alternative is a quite word with your maternal and child health nurse about how you’re feeling. They’ll work with you to figure out what’s going on, and what options for support and treatment are appropriate for you.

Alternately these websites can offer some coping strategies:


Just remember having a newborn is a stressful and isolating time in your life even with family close by. Asking for help can become overwhelming for fear of being judged as an unfit parent.

Remember you haven’t failed as a mother and to use an old cliché “it takes a village to raise a child”!

How can you deal with postnatal depression

Ask your partner, friends or family for emotional support, and for help around the house and with the baby.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Try not to compare yourself and your baby to other parents and babies. Everyone is different.
Try some activities aimed at reducing stress, such as mindfulness exercises or use stress-busting apps.
Try to arrange for some help at least 30 minutes a day, so that you can take a short break and practice taking care of yourself. Do things to relax or that you enjoy.

How common is perinatal mental health

‘Perinatal depression’ is a collective term for the depression that parents can experience during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby (postpartum depression). It affects approximately one in six new mothers and one in ten new fathers.

Perinatal depression is more serious than ‘baby blues’, which 80 per cent of new mothers experience in the first few weeks after having a baby. With perinatal depression, people feel a sadness or guilt that is more severe than usual. This lasts for longer than a few weeks, involves other symptoms, and may interfere with their relationship with their baby and how they cope with their everyday life.

Mental health programs for depression

A quick look online and you will find many links to help for depression. Knowing what help you need can seem daunting, asking for help even scarier.

To help you navigate through the quagmire, listed below are a few helpful contacts:

SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 18 7263.
Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online.
Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) — online help.
Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14 or chat online.
Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467.

How do you know if you are mentally depressed

Here are some signs of mental illness to look out for:

  • unusual or illogical thoughts
  • unreasonable anger or irritability
  • poor concentration and memory, not being able to follow a conversation
  • hearing voices that no one else can hear
  • increased or decreased sleep
  • increased or low appetite
  • lack of motivation
  • withdrawing from people
  • drug use
  • feelings that life is not worth living or more serious suicidal thoughts
  • becoming obsessed with a topic, like death or religion
  • not looking after personal hygiene or other responsibilities
  • not performing as well at school or work

Can nurses diagnose depression

In a word no, nurses do not diagnose. However, a nursing diagnosis is a part of the nursing process and is a clinical judgment that helps nurses determine the plan of care for their patients. These diagnoses drive possible interventions for the patient, family, and community. They are developed with thoughtful consideration of a patient’s physical  assessment and can help measure outcomes for the nursing care plan.

“Nursing diagnosis is a clinical judgment about individual, family, or community responses to actual or potential health problems/life processes. A nursing diagnosis provides the basis for selection of nursing interventions to achieve outcomes for which the nurse is accountable.”


Ackley, B. J., & Ladwig, G. B. (2010). Nursing Diagnosis Handbook-E-Book: An Evidence-Based Guide to Planning Care. Elsevier Health Sciences.

No Comments

Post A Comment

+ +