This report examines the association between the prevalence of diabetes and poor mental health and wellbeing in the Australian population, based on a range of measures and national data sources.

The main findings are:

  • Diabetes and poor mental health and wellbeing are both common health conditions in Australia, with over 800,000 adults estimated to have diabetes and over 4 million adults estimated to have medium, high or very high levels of psychological distress.
  • Australians with diabetes have a higher prevalence of poor mental health and wellbeing than those without diabetes.
    • Adults with diabetes had a significantly higher prevalence of medium, high or very high psychological distress than those without diabetes (43.4% and 32.2% respectively), after adjusting for age differences in the groups, based on the 2007–08 National Health Survey.
    • In 2007–08, diabetes hospitalisations were more likely to also have a mental health condition recorded than other hospitalisations (age-standardised rates of 8.4% and 7.5% respectively). Substance use, dementia/Alzheimer disease and depression were the most common mental health conditions.
    • The proportion of people who claimed a mental health-related service from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) in 2008 was twice as high for those with a diabetes-related MBS service than for those without a diabetes-related MBS service (age-standardised rates of 13% and 6% respectively).
  • People with diabetes who were current smokers were more likely to have a mental disorder and more likely to have medium, high or very high levels of psychological distress than people with diabetes who were not current smokers.

This analysis also highlights the limitations of existing data for obtaining accurate estimates of the prevalence of poor mental health among people with diabetes. The feasibility of enhancing existing administrative and survey data collections, or undertaking more specific surveys focused on people with diabetes, should be considered.