Mental health

Self-reported psychological distress is an important indication of the overall mental health of a population. Most (an estimated 70%) adults without disability experience a low level of psychological distress (Figure 1). This is not the case for adults with disability, of whom less than half (42%) experience a low level of psychological distress.

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In general, adults with disability experience higher levels of psychological distress than those without disability. This is particularly true for those with severe or profound disability. For example, high or very high levels of psychological distress are more likely to be experienced by:

  • adults with disability (32%), who are 4 times as likely as those without disability (8.0%)
  • adults with severe or profound disability (40%), who are more likely than adults with other forms of disability (30%)
  • men with disability (31%), who are around 5 times as likely as those without disability (6.8%)
  • women with disability (32%), who are around 3 times as likely as women without disability (9.2%) (Figure 1).

Younger adults (aged 18–64) with disability are more likely to experience a higher level of psychological distress than older adults (aged 65 and over) with disability (Figure 1).

According to disability group, the most likely to experience a high or very high level of psychological distress are adults with:

  • psychological disability (76%)
  • intellectual disability (60%)
  • head injury, stroke or brain damage (55%).

The least likely to experience this are adults with:

  • sensory disability (sight, hearing or speech) (28%)
  • physical disability (33%).


ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019. Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4364.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS. Findings based on AIHW analysis of the main unit record file (MURF).