Mental health impact of COVID-19

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Mental Health Impact of COVID-19 (596KB PDF)

The potential for COVID-19 to impact mental health and wellbeing was recognised early in the pandemic (WHO 2020a). In addition to concerns around contracting the virus itself, some of the measures necessary to contain its spread were also likely to negatively impact mental health (NMHC 2020). Widespread restrictions of movement, social distancing measures and physical isolation, or ‘lockdowns’, were implemented from March 2020. The sudden loss of employment and social interaction, and the added stressors of moving to remote work or schooling, and more recently, impacts of sudden, localised ‘lockdowns’ to prevent further outbreaks have impacted the mental health of many Australians. Stress, confusion and anger are commonplace as a result of the pandemic (Brooks et al 2020) and, while many people may not experience any long-term concerns, COVID-19 has the potential to contribute to or exacerbate long-term mental illness including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and substance misuse (WHO 2020b).

The AIHW has been assisting the Australian Government Department of Health to curate, analyse and report on COVID-19 mental health-related data to governments regularly since April 2020. Data reported includes information from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), Australian Government-funded crisis and support organisations (Lifeline, Beyond Blue, Kids Helpline), and analysis of emerging research findings. There is a national and a jurisdictional version of the mental health COVID-19 reporting dashboard.

This section was last updated in March 2021 and summarises the activity reported via the mental health COVID-19 dashboards as at 24 January 2021. It will be updated quarterly during the pandemic. Population rates are calculated using Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated resident populations at 30 June 2020.


Brooks, SK, Webster, RK, Smith, LE, Woodland, L, Wessely, S et al 2020. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence, The Lancet, 395(10227): 912-920. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8

NMHC (National Mental Health Commission) 2020. National mental health and wellbeing pandemic response plan, Viewed 7 October 2020

WHO (World Health Organization) 2020a. Substantial investment needed to avert mental health crisis, Viewed 7 October 2020

WHO 2020b. Mental health and COVID-19, Viewed 7 October 2020