3.4 Million GP consultations a year for depression

Almost one in five Australians have experienced a mental health disorder during their lives, with general practitioners being the main providers for people dealing with problems such as depression, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Mental Health Services in Australia 2001-02 shows that 10.1 million GP consultations a year are for mental health related problems, with 3.4 million of those visits being specifically for the treatment and management of depression.

Head of AIHW's Hospital and Mental Health Services Unit, Ms Jenny Hargreaves, said that GPs are seeing women (60%) more than men for depressive illnesses, and that help for depression was most commonly sought by patients between 25 and 44 years of age.

The report shows an increase in the total number of mental health related hospital stays with a principal diagnosis of depression, from 58,682 in 1998-99 to 68,450 in 2001-02, with 86% of this increase occurring in private hospitals.

Mental health-related medications accounted for 15.8 million GP prescriptions, or 11% of all GP prescriptions. Private psychiatrists issued 1.7 million prescriptions for mental health related medications for the same period.

'More than half (59%) of the total mental health-related medications prescribed by GPs and private psychiatrists were for antidepressants,' Ms Hargreaves said.

The report indicates that there were over 4.2 million service contacts between patients and hospital outpatient clinics and community-based mental health services in 2001-02, with schizophrenia and delusional disorders being commonly treated. There were slightly more service contacts for male (50.5%) than for female patients.

In 2001-02, there were 187,043 mental health-related admissions to public and private hospitals in Australia, of which 52% were for female patients. This compares with 182,981 mental health-related hospital admissions in 1998-99.

Public hospitals dealt most commonly with affective disorders, such as depression, and schizophrenia. Private hospitals primarily treated cases of affective disorders and neurotic and stress-related disorders.

The average length of stay for hospital admissions was 10 days in public acute hospitals and 16 days in private hospitals.

Mental Health Services in Australia 2001-02 was supported by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and state and territory health departments.

30 April 2004


Further information: Ms Jenny Hargreaves, AIHW, 0407 012 520 (mobile)

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032