Over eight million Australians suffer from a long-term health problem, with 2,231,543 (nearly one in 10) reporting a mental health condition, according to newly released Census 2021 results.
However, clinical psychiatrist Tanveer Ahmed says that although it is positive, more Australians are willing to speak out about mental health; he warns of an increasing willingness to treat even mild ailments as medical conditions needing treatment or professional advice.
The Census data found other significant long-term health problems to be arthritis (2,150,396 individuals) and asthma (2,068,020).
Unsurprisingly, as Australians got older, they were more likely to have a condition, with 62.9 percent of individuals over 65 reporting at least one condition compared to 22.1 percent of 15-34-year-olds.
In terms of gender, females were more likely to have a long-term health condition (33.9 percent) compared to men (29.5 percent).
“For the first time, we have data on long-term health conditions across the whole population. This is critical data to inform planning and service delivery decisions about how treatment and care is provided for all Australians,” according to David Gruen AO, the Australian Statistician.
Society Much More ‘Medicalised’
Medicalisation occurs when a person’s experience or condition is categorised and treated as a medical condition, even when it may not be necessary.
Psychiatrist Ahmed says this trend has become more noticeable in developed Western societies.
“Increasingly, we have less language to describe adversity and suffering, and instead interpret it in medical or psychological terms,” he told The Epoch Times. “A lot of the help that is needed was probably done by friends, communities, or amateurs in the past, but now it’s done by a professional, including things like counselling.”
“You can also say Western societies have become much more inward [looking]. So, increasingly people see solutions to their problems within themselves.
“Whereas much of the world is ‘relational,’ they see the problems outside of themselves, including their community, families, or institutions.”
“For example, in school, if you get a disability provision linked to mental health—and that’s becoming one of the dominant areas—potentially you get extra time for your assignment, or you might get extra marks,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NDIS, an ambitious taxpayer-funded program aimed at covering all the costs of services for disabled individuals, found a substantial portion of participants sought government support to deal with mental health issues.
The NDIS’s Annual Financial Sustainability Report, 2020-21, found that 32.5 percent of individuals were claiming for autism, 19.6 percent claiming for intellectual disability, and 10.4 percent claim for psychosocial disability.
“When the NDIS is promoted, they almost always get someone with quite a serious physical disability, which is just not the norm,” Ahmed said.
He also noted that because the program covered all manner of services—even simple tasks like hiring a person to mow the lawn—created “a lot of incentive to have a mental health diagnosis.”
“It also overlaps with trends of identity politics, where proclaiming some kind of suffering or pain can attract a degree of status.”