The Australian Bureau of Statistics National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020-21 (22 July 2022) was funded by the Department of Health and Aged Care as part of the Intergenerational Health and Mental Health Study (IHMHS.) 

Mental health is a key component of overall health and wellbeing. The report defined mental illness as ‘a clinically diagnosable disorder that significantly interferes with an individual’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities’. The term itself covers a range of illnesses including anxiety, affective and substance use disorders. 

A person does not need to meet the criteria for a mental disorder to be negatively affected by their mental health. Mental ill-health affects and is affected by multiple socioeconomic factors, including a person’s access to services, living conditions and employment status, and impacts not only the individual but also their families and carers.  

The National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020-21 data was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic between December 2020 and July 2021. Interviews were conducted with respondents in person where social distancing restrictions and other jurisdictional requirements allowed. During this time initiatives were in place to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 including border control measures for some states and territories, stay at home orders, remote learning, shutting down non-essential services, limits on gatherings and social distancing rules. 

The report provides a summary of statistics on key mental health issues including the prevalence of mental disorders and the use of services and identifies that: 

  • Over two in five Australians aged 16-85 years (43.7% or 8.6 million people) had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life; 
  • One in five (21.4% or 4.2 million people) had a 12-month mental disorder; 
  • Anxiety was the most common group of 12-month mental disorders (16.8% or 3.3 million people): 
  • Almost two in five people (39.6%) aged 16-24 years had a 12-month mental disorder. 

The report notes that ABS uses, and supports the use of, the Mindframe guidelines on responsible, accurate and safe reporting on suicide, mental ill-health and alcohol and other drugs. It recommends referring to these guidelines when reporting on statistics in this report. 

Some of these statistics may cause distress. Services you can contact are detailed and links are provided to mental health resources throughout the report. 

Read more: Summary of statistics