New figures show 246,000 hospital admissions for mental health problems

Patients diagnosed with mental health-related conditions accounted for approximately 246,000 general and psychiatric hospital admissions during 1997-98, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Institutional Mental Health Services in Australia 1997-98 presents the first ever national statistics on the characteristics and hospital care of patients either admitted with a mental health principal diagnosis, or for which specialist psychiatric care was reported.

Same-day stays accounted for approximately 37% of all mental health-related admissions.

The report found that 56% of admissions were classified as 'short-stay' (less than 35 days, excluding same-day admissions) with a median length of stay of 7 days.

Only 5% of stays were classified as long stays (greater than 35 days) with a median length of stay of 62 days.

Approximately half of all short-stay admissions involved specialised psychiatric care, with the proportion rising to 75% for long-stay admissions. (Hospitals provide a mix of psychiatric and other services to mental health patients).

For short stay admissions women had a higher admission rate than men in the 25-65 age group, with men prevalent in the under 25 and over 65 groups.

Approximately 50% of long-stay admissions for men were involuntary, compared with 34% for women. In the 18-44 age group, 60% of male long-stay admissions were involuntary.

Co-author of the report, David Braddock, said that affective disorders (includes depression and manic disorders) and schizophrenic disorders dominated both short and long stay hospital admissions.

The report also shows that public psychiatric hospitals have a reduced role in providing mental health services in Australia.

'It's estimated that the number of beds available in these institutions declined by 63% or 5,400 beds over the last decade. This is in line with an increased emphasis on providing more mental health services in the community,' Mr Braddock said.
'We hope to be providing data on community mental health services within the next 12 months'.

Institutional Mental Health Services in Australia 1997-98 was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care as part of the National Mental Health Strategy.

Mental health is one of the nation's six National Health Priority Areas (the others are cardiovascular health, cancer, injury, diabetes and asthma).

29 February 2000

Further information: David Braddock, tel. 02 6244 1136.
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, tel. 02 6244 1032.