Mental health problems and substance abuse cause the most disability and poor health across the world, according to a report published in The Lancet.
A team of researchers looked at the premature mortality and the years lived with a disability for more than 200 diseases in 187 countries. Professor Harvey Whiteford, from the University of Queensland, says the report shows mental health and substance use disorders were the leading cause of disability across the globe. Depression accounted for more than 40 per cent of disability.
Researchers also looked at illicit drug use and found opioids caused the most illness, followed by amphetamines. Drug dependence was highest in men aged 20 to 29.
Women and girls were more likely to be affected by mental health disorders while men and boys were more likely to have drug and alcohol abuse issues.
They found the largest proportion of mental health and substance use disorders were in people aged 10-29.
Researchers found that between 1990 and 2010, more Australians sought treatment for conditions such as depression and anxiety.
The amount of funding we spend on services in Australia is nowhere near commensurate with the size of the burdenProfessor Harvey Whiteford
Teenagers and young adults were the most likely to be affected, and more men in particular reported problems with alcohol and illicit drugs.
Disability and illness from opioid dependence increased by almost 75 per cent over the two decades.
Researchers say nearly a quarter of the health-related disability in Australia comes from mental health disorders and substance abuse, a fact they say is significantly under recognised.
“So the amount of funding we spend on services in Australia is nowhere near commensurate with the size of the burden,” Professor Whiteford said.
Bronwyn Collins says her teenage years were filled with depression and anxiety from the age of 14.
“Given I grew up in a country town, I was worried about the stigma and sharing what was going on with me with friends and family,” she said.
But she has been able to turn her struggle into something positive, with a career in mental health.
“I feel that having a personal experience I can take my negative experience and turn it in something positive for someone else,” she said.
And while some services may be scarce, Ms Collins says it is worth persevering to find help.
“It is possible if I can find my silver lining, then so can everybody else,” she said.