Mental health conditions have become the second-largest cause of illness and premature death in Australia, government data revealed on Thursday. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) published its annual Australian Burden of Disease Study for 2023, estimating the number of years of healthy life Australians lost to living with poor health and dying prematurely, reports Xinhua news agency.
It found that mental health conditions, including substance abuse disorders, accounted for 15 per cent of all disease burdens in 2023, making them the second biggest group of disease-causing illness and premature death behind only cancer at 17 per cent.
According to the report, Australians lost 5.6 million years of healthy life in 2023, 54 per cent of which was lost to living with disease and 46 per cent to dying prematurely. Since 2003, the rate of total disease burden has declined by 11 per cent, driven by a 27 per cent decrease in the number of healthy years lost to premature death. However, non-fatal disease burden has increased by 6.3 per cent in the same period.
"Australians are, on average, living longer and spending more years in full health," AIHW spokesperson Michelle Gourley said in a media release. "However, years lived in ill health are also growing, resulting in little change in the proportion of life spent in full health and contributing to growing demands on the health system and other services."
Over 91 per cent of the healthy years of life lost to cancer was due to premature death, the report said. By comparison, the disease burden from mental health conditions and substance abuse was 1.7 per cent fatal and 98.3 per cent non-fatal.
Anxiety disorders, depressive disorders and bipolar disorder accounted for 54 per cent of the burden caused by mental health conditions. Since 2003 disease burden due to anxiety disorders has increased by 33 per cent, the report said.