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One in 10 depressed: Coronavirus taking a mental toll, ABS survey finds

Female-dominated industries like hospitality, healthcare and retail have been hit hardest by shutdowns while industries with more male employees, such as agriculture and mining, have been less affected.

Overall, 9 per cent of working age adults felt so depressed nothing could cheer them up. One in 10 discussed their negative feelings with a doctor.

Those aged over 65, who are considered to be more physically vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus, were less emotionally affected with 3 per cent reporting they felt depressed.

Compared to 2017/2018, ABS program manager for household surveys Michelle Marquardt said “almost twice as many adults reported feelings associated with anxiety, such as nervousness or restlessness, at least some of the time over the last four weeks”.

“Adults aged 18 to 64 years were nearly twice as likely as those aged 65 years and over to experience feelings related to anxiety at least some of the time,” Ms Marquardt said.

There have been growing warnings about the dire mental health toll of the virus and the restrictions taken to mitigate its spread, as well as the job and income loss as a result of the economic downturn.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Friday said there were now 1.5 million people on unemployment benefits with 900,000 claims processed in the past six weeks.

That surge in unemployment was evident in the ABS survey with reduced income and falling working hours affecting many people. Thirty-five percent of working age respondents said their household finances had deteriorated because of the coronavirus outbreak. For 12 per cent, finances had actually improved.

One in 8 people said they could raise $500 but not $2000 for something important in a week while 5 per cent said they would fail to raise $500.


Just under 8 per cent said their household had been unable to pay one or more bills between mid-March and mid-April due to a shortage of money.

The survey revealed about 17 per cent of households were having to take extra actions to survive, including dipping into savings or term deposits. Three per cent had reduced home loan repayment to make ends meet.

With about a third of the population holding a mortgage, that suggests one-in-10 mortgagors have cut their payments.

More than half of those surveyed had yet to use the government’s $750 one-off stimulus payment. But among working age people, the proportion saving the payment was 37 per cent.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue’s Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service at or 1800 512 348.

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