Depression and schizophrenia top list of hospital stays for mental health conditions

Depression and schizophrenia dominate hospital admissions involving specialised psychiatric care, according to a new report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Mental Health Services in Australia 1998–99 shows that there were 169,000 psychiatric care admissions at Australian hospitals during 1998–99, and a further 83,000 general care admissions involving mental health-related conditions.

Of the psychiatric admissions, depression and schizophrenia and related conditions accounted for 26% and 20% respectively of all admissions.

Although psychiatric care admissions account for only a small percentage of all hospital admissions, they account for nearly 12% of all patient-days.

Report co-author David Braddock says that this is clear evidence that mental health conditions are still significant for public hospitals in Australia, despite their reducing role in providing mental health services, in accord with increasing provision of these services within the community.

'We estimate that the number of beds available in public psychiatric institutions has declined by 65% or 5,570 beds over the last decade.'

'And we now know that we are spending more money each year on community mental health care establishments than in stand-alone psychiatric hospitals—the figures are $588 million compared with $437 million.

'Our ongoing General Practice surveys also show a sizeable number of consultations for mental health-related conditions, especially depression.

'So, what we are seeing in the hospital figures is a tip, a big tip admittedly, of a much larger iceberg.

'At the moment we don't have data on patient activity in community mental health care settings, but we will have them in two years time.

'We should then have much clearer picture of the treatment of patients with of mental health conditions across all care settings.

'These data may also help us to find out why hospital admissions for psychiatric care in the cities outnumber such admissions in rural and remote areas by 5 to 1.

'We suspect it is related to availability of services, with most psychiatric hospitals being in the cities, and it could be that GPs and other community health facilities are the main forces dealing with mental health conditions in the bush.'

Mental Health Services in Australia 1998–99 was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care as part of the National Mental Health Strategy.

27 June 2001


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