Almost one in five turn to mental health medication

Young child worried about overuse of social media. | Newsreel
Women are being prescribed mental health medication at almost double the rate of men. | iStock

New research has revealed that millions of Australians are battling mental health challenges, with almost one in five taking medication to help them cope.

The National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing, released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), found 17.6 percent of the population (3.5 million people) took mental health medication in the 2020-22 period.

This rose to one in four people in the 65 to 85 age group.

While the relatively high medication rate may have been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, around 43 percent of the adult population said they had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their lives.

The most common mental health disorder was anxiety, which had impacted 17.2 percent of those aged 16 to 85.

The survey revealed that women were far more likely than men to take mental health medication.

Just under 22 percent of women were prescribed medication between 2020 and 2022, compared with 13.5 percent of men.

“Twelve percent of people aged 16 to 34 years were dispensed at least one mental health-related medication (between 2020 and 2022) compared with 18 percent of people aged 35–64 years and 25.8 percent of people aged 65–85 years,” the survey found.

“(Specifically) 14.2 percent of Australians aged 16 to 85 years were dispensed at least one antidepressants medication and 3.1 percent were supplied with at least one Anxiolytics medication.”

The figures around suicide risk outlined in the survey were particularly sobering.

One in six Australians (3.3 million) had experienced suicidal thoughts in their lifetime and 644,600 of those had the thoughts in the previous 12 months.

More information can be found at the Australian Bureau of Statistics website