Disability Pensions for Psychiatric Conditions Rise in Australia

A Psychiatrist with his Patient

A study revealed that disability pension claims for mental health conditions rose by 51% in Australia between 2001 and 2014.

The increase took place despite no recorded growth in the prevalence of psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression. As Real Support Choices noted, these two are the fourth highest causes of disability care at home or a medical facility.

Mysterious Increase

Samuel Harvey, the study’s lead author, said that several reasons can explain the increase in disability pensions despite a drop in underlying mental health symptoms. These factors include a practitioner’s citation of a mental disorder as the primary form of disability for a patient, government policy, or simply employers that rejected job applicants with mental illnesses.

Still, Harvey noted that the country has achieved progress in reducing mental health cases over the last 10 years. The study’s release also downplayed popular opinion about Australia plummeting into a mental health crisis.

National Health Survey data backed this claim as Australians with anxiety and depression comprised 12.2% of the population in 2014, down from 13.3% in 2001.

Government Crackdown

A proposed bill would require immigrants to wait for up to 15 years before they receive age or disability pension. The legislation aims to save around $1 billion for the national budget over four years. If approved, the proposal would be effective in July 2018.

However, the Payment Integrity Bill would exempt refugees, although it would apply only to 2,400 people. The bill would also be stricter in providing pensions for Australians that have spent five years outside the country. Social Services Minister Christian Porter said that the proposal would put taxpayer funds to good use.

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The increase in disability pensions despite a decline in mental health symptoms has become a puzzling situation, yet the Australian government should look into the matter since healthcare costs are on the rise.