Over 10 million GP consultations for mental health problems

There were an estimated 10.8 million visits to general practitioners for mental health-related conditions in 2000-01, especially for depression, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Depression accounted for one in every three mental health problems managed by general practitioners.

Mental Health Services in Australia 2000-01 also shows that general practitioners managed a larger number of mental health problems for female patients than for male patients. This applied across all age groups with the exception of people under 15 years of age.

The majority of patients with a mental health problem managed were aged 35 to 54 years.

Report co-author David Braddock said that the figures highlighted the key role played by General Practitioners in the provision of mental health-related care.

'This has been backed up by data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which show that over 29% of adults with mental disorders had visited a GP for a mental health problem in the previous 12 months', Mr Braddock said.

In addition to the GP visits were an estimated 2.1 million visits to private psychiatrists in Australia in 2000-01.

Mental Health Services in Australia 2000-01 also shows there were 275,000 mental health-related hospital stays during 2000-01. Of these, 166,000 were overnight hospital admissions (a stay involving one or more nights), with 131,000 being admissions to public hospitals and 35,000 to private hospitals.

Mood disorders, especially depression and bipolar affective disorder (manic depression), accounted for 45,000 of these overnight admissions (26.2%), with 32,000 admissions being to public hospitals and 13,000 to private hospitals.

Apart from mood disorders, public and private hospitals tend to have differing focuses with respect to mental health problems. Public hospital admissions included a comparatively high proportion of schizophrenia disorders (22.6% of public admissions) whereas private hospital admissions included a high proportion of neurotic and stress-related disorders (18.7% of private admissions).

For same-day admissions for mental health-related problems, private hospitals had almost 20% growth between 1998-99 and 2000-01.

Mr Braddock said that there were also several million contacts during the year with community mental health care facilities, but data had not yet been finalised for these types of services.

Mental Health Services in Australia 2000-01 was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, and State and Territory health departments, as part of the National Mental Health Strategy.


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