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Mental health quick statistics

Statistics taken from Te Rau Hinengaro - New Zealand Mental Health Survey: Quick Reference Guide for Media



New Zealand has a high prevalence of anxiety, mood and substance abuse disorders, which are exceeded only by the US for anxiety (14.7% compared with 18.2%), by the US (9.6%), Ukraine (9.1%) and France (8.5% compared with New Zealand's 7.7%) for mood and only by the Ukraine and US for substance abuse disorders out of 15 countries who have conducted similar surveys as at 2004.

Anxiety disorders are the most common group of disorders (15%) followed by mood disorders (8%), then substance abuse (3.5%). Eating disorders were rare (0.5%).

All disorders are most common in 16-24 year olds and declined with age. This is particularly true for substance disorders. Anxiety and depression were more common in women and substance abuse more common in men (double the rate of women).

New Zealand lifetime prevalence rates for anxiety, mood and substance abuse disorders are higher than for European countries and similar to the US - where similar surveys have been carried out.

Mental disorder

Some experience of a mental disorder is common (20% of the population or 1 in 5 New Zealanders within the past year) and of those having more than, is also common (37% in any year). The most common combination of disorders is anxiety and mood disorders. Having more than one mental disorder is linked with suicidal behaviour (such as suicide attempts) and increased mental health service use.

People with a mental disorder are more likely to be physically unwell and the reverse is also true.

There is significant unmet need for people with mental disorders. Over a 12 month period only 39% of people with a mental disorder had visited health services.

Most people with a mental disorder saw the problem as fixing itself - the most commonly endorsed reason for delaying seeking, stopping treatment or not seeking help were attitudinal: "I thought the problem would get better by itself".

Health service use

Unmet need was greatest in younger and Pacific people. People with lower educational attainment and those living in rural areas had lower rates of visits to mental health services.

Younger people were less likely than any other age groups to have had a health visit for a mental health reason.

Males had lower rates of any mental health visits than females.

Pacific people who experienced serious disorders were much less likely to access treatment than the total New Zealand population.

Disability and comorbidity

It's common for people to have had two mental disorders (comorbidity).

People with mental disorders have a higher prevalence of several chronic physical conditions.

Mood disorders affect peoples' lives the most.

Around 3% of the population reported days where they were completely unable to work or carry out their normal activities due to mental health problems.


Thinking about suicide is common (15%) though planning (5.5%) and attempting were lower (4.5%).

Individuals with mental illness are at higher risk of suicide, particularly people with depressive or mood disorders.

The risk of suicidal behaviour varied with ethnicity, with Maori and Pacific people reporting higher rates than the other population group.

Almost half of those with a 12-month history of suicidal behaviour did not report making any general medical or specialist mental health visits within the same 12-month period in which they were suicidal. Pg 99

Differences between ethnic groups

Maori and Pacific people have a higher prevalence of disorder and serious disorder than the general population, but most of this is accounted for by socio-demographic differences, particularly for Pacific people.

Maori and Pacific people have an excess burden of lifetime mental disorder compared to other groups even when the younger age of these groups is taken into account (mental disorders have early onset and younger people are at greater risk).

Results showed that length of time exposed to the New Zealand environment may be associated with higher levels of mental disorder among Pacific people. 

About the Te Rau Hinengaro survey

The Te Rau Hinengaro - New Zealand Mental Health Survey, collects information on the prevalence, severity, impairment and treatment of major mental health disorders. This survey is linked to one that has been fielded in many other countries in collaboration with the World Health Organization.

In 2003/04, 13,000 people were interviewed for the Te Rau Hinengaro - New Zealand Mental Health Survey. The final report for Te Rau Hinengaro was published in September 2006.

Top Page last updated: 7 January 2011