The National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being in Australia: Impact on policy

Scott Henderson*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    20 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: To provide a synopsis of the 3-part National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being in Australia and to examine the yield in terms of policy and other changes in mental and general health services. Method: Published data are examined, and a commentary is provided on service-delivery issues that the data have revealed. Results: One-year prevalence estimates for the common mental disorders, defined according to ICD-10 criteria and assessed using the automated version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI-A), have indicated rates similar to those of other countries (17.7%). Alarmingly high rates were found for alcohol and substance abuse in young persons, especially among young men. The number of years of life lost owing to disability attributable to mental disorders exceeds the number lost owing to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Only 35% of persons with 1 or more of the common mental disorders had sought help in the 12 months prior to interview. The point prevalence for mental health problems was 14% for persons aged 4 to 17 years. The point prevalence for psychotic disorders was 4.7 per 1000. An encouraging finding is that 81% of affected individuals had been to their general practitioner (GP) in the last year. However, only 20% had participated in any rehabilitation program in the past year. Conclusions: The Survey results are based on a national population sample, not on individuals reaching services. They have therefore proved to be of great value in influencing policy at federal and state levels and may have contributed to increased funding for both services and research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)819-824
    Number of pages6
    JournalCanadian Journal of Psychiatry
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2002


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