Growth in Australia’s mental health workforce

The mental health workforce in Australia is growing, according to new figures released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The latest workforce information on the AIHW’s Mental Health Services in Australia website (available at http://mhsa.aihw.gov.au/) shows the number of psychiatrists (including psychiatrists-in-training) per 100,000 people increased at an average yearly rate of 1.4% between 2005 and 2009.

‘The number of nurses who work principally in mental health increased at an average yearly rate of 1.5% over the same period,’ said AIHW spokesperson Mr Brent Diverty.

The website provides workforce information on psychiatrists, psychiatrists-in-training and nurses who work principally in mental health care.

Nationally, there were about 18 full time equivalent (FTE) psychiatrists (including psychiatrists-in-training) and 69 FTE mental health nurses per 100,000 people in 2009.

The highest rate of psychiatrists (including psychiatrists-in-training) was in Major cities, while the highest rate of mental health nurses was in Inner regional areas.

Psychiatrists (including psychiatrists-in-training) reported working an average of 40 hours per week and mental health nurses worked an average of 37 hours per week.

The average age of psychiatrists in 2009 was 52 years and more than two-thirds were male.

Psychiatrists (excluding psychiatrists-in-training) aged 55 years and over made up more than one-third of the workforce in 2009, and this has been stable since 2005.

The average age for mental health nurses in 2009 was 46 years and about a third were male. Among the general nursing workforce less than 1 in 10 are male.

‘Mental health nurses are ageing, with the proportion of mental health nurses aged 55 years and over increasing from 20% in 2005 to 25% in 2009,’ Mr Diverty said.

Among nurses who worked principally in mental health, 82% were registered nurses and 18% were enrolled nurses.

About 5% of all nurses employed in Australia indicated working principally in mental health.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 10 April 2012

Further information: Mr Brent Diverty, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5096, mob.  0418 271 395