Social relationships and networks can act as protective factors against the onset or recurrence of mental health problems and enhance recovery from mental disorders. People who participated in the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing were asked about the regularity of their contact with family and friends. The survey also collected information on the care that they gave to family with mental and physical health problems.
- Almost two thirds (64.4%) of Australians aged 16-85 years are in contact with their families nearly every day. One quarter of the population (26.2%) were in contact with family at least once a week (figure 16).
- The prevalence of mental disorders in females with less than weekly contact with family was one and a half times greater than for males (33.9% and 20.0%).
- Most people have family members and friends they can rely on and confide in should they have a serious problem.
- People with no family members on whom they could rely were more likely to have experienced mental disorders in the previous 12 months (33.4%) than people with 1-4 family members (21.0%).
- A greater proportion of people were in contact with family nearly every day (64.4%) than were in contact with friends on a daily basis (42.7%). About two-fifths of people had contact with friends at least once a week (42.8%).
- Of the total population, 12.8% of people had a relative with a mental disorder; 28.8% had a relative with a chronic physical health condition; and 26.3% had a relative with both a mental disorder and a chronic physical condition (figure 17).
- Among people who have relatives with both a mental disorder and chronic physical condition, about two-fifths (40.6%) were in a caregiving role (figure 18).
- The prevalence of mental disorders was higher in people who provided care to relatives with a mental disorder and a chronic physical condition (35.9%) and a mental disorder alone (35.1%), than people who provided care to relatives with a chronic physical condition only (19.3%).
Figure 16: Prevalence of 12-month mental disorders in people with different amounts of contact with family and friends
Text version of figure 16Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.
|Regularity of contact||Nearly every day||At least once a week||Less than once a week|
Figure 17: Proportion of population with a relative with a mental and/or physical disorder
Text version of figure 17Proportion of population with a relative with a mental and/or physical disorder:
- No relatives with a mental or physical disorder - 31.2%
- Relatives with a mental disorder - 12.8%
- Relatives with a physical disorder - 28.8%
- Relatives with a mental and physical disorder - 26.3%
Figure 18: Proportion of population in a caregiving role by the health status of the relative
Text version of figure 18Proportion of population in a care giving role by the health status of the relative:
- Mental disorder - 32.3%
- Physical disorder - 24.7%
- Mental and physical disorder - 40.6%