Dimension: Healthy throughout life
Proportion of adults who experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress. Measured by the Kessler 10 (K10) Psychological Distress Scale for the general population and the Kessler 5 (K5) Psychological Distress Scale for First Nations people
Why does this matter
Mental health is complex, influencing how people think, feel and act, affecting every aspect of our people’s lives. The experience of mental health and wellbeing is extremely diverse and unique to every person. Similarly, many factors can influence mental health including, for example, biological factors, life experiences, family history of mental ill-health, major stress and significant life changes.1
One measure of the mental health and wellbeing of our population is provided by measuring levels of psychological distress.
Has there been progress
In 2017-18, 13 per cent of Australians aged 18 years and over experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress, consistent with 2004-05 levels.2
More recently, the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020-21 reported approximately 15 per cent of Australians aged 16-85 years experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2020-21.3 This data was collected during the COVID-19 pandemic and might not reflect a long-term trend. Caution should be taken when comparing the 2020-21 result with the trend due to differences in survey methodology.
How does this differ across cohorts
In 2017-18, more women than men experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress (14.5 per cent and 11.3 per cent respectively).
31 per cent of adult First Nations Australians experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in 2018-19.4
First Nations women were also more likely to experience high or very high levels of psychological distress than men (35 per cent and 26 per cent respectively).
4 Australian Bureau of Statistics (2019) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey, accessed 13 July 2023.