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Australians published the second wave of findings from a mental health and substance use prevalence study.

Based on nearly 16,000 participants in Australia’s National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing (NSMHWS), researchers report on the lifetime and 12-month prevalence of a range of mental health conditions and problematic substance use, and access to mental health supports and services, including e-therapies.

The NSMHWS uses a robust and comprehensive approach using the Compositive International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). The CIDI is an in-depth structured interview which was the tool used in Aotearoa New Zealand to undertake Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Survey (Oakley Browne, Wells & Scott, 2006) to quantify need and unmet need, across a large community sample.

The Australian survey finds whilst the overall 12-month prevalence rates of mental health conditions and problematic substance use is around 1 in 5 of the population, the prevalence for some population groups is much higher. For example, almost half of young females (45.5%) and one third of young males (32.4%) aged 16–24 years had a mental health condition in this period, with anxiety being the most common.

Currently we have no robust data to understand if this is the case in New Zealand. This detailed level of information is crucial for understanding people’s needs and for effectively and equitably targeting resources, and for tailoring services and supports for priority populations.

The NSMHWS findings also highlight the limitations of relying on service access data to assess the level of need in the population. The study found that of the people who had experienced anxiety, depression, or problematic substance use in the previous year, less than half had seen a health professional.

This release comes just two weeks after the publication of findings from the Canadian mental health and access to care study.

There are now many partners in Aotearoa New Zealand recognising the value of and urgent need for a series of prevalence studies and urging the new government to prioritise investment to address this significant and untenable data gap. Te Pou and MIHI are working alongside many organisations including Le Va, Whāraurau, Te Hiringa Mahara, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists to consider the design of future prevalence studies. To find out more visit Understanding population mental health and substance use.

To access the media release and more information on the Australian National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2020-2022 go to Two in five Australians have experienced a mental disorder media release.

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