Use of Medicare-subsidised mental health services rising

More people are using mental health-related services, with rises in Medicare-subsidised services, services provided by general practitioners (GPs) and in hospitals, according to information released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The latest figures on the AIHW's Mental Health Services in Australia website (http://mhsa.aihw.gov.au) show that over 7.9 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services were provided by psychiatrists, GPs, psychologists and other allied health professionals to over 1.6 million patients in 2011-12.

'The number of people using Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services rose from about 1.5 million in 2010-11 to 1.6 million in 2011-12, at a rate greater than population growth,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Pamela Kinnear.

'Mental health-related GP visits also grew over the same period, although this growth has slowed in recent years to less than 2% between 2010-11 and 2011-12.'

About 12% of all GP visits in 2011-12 were mental health-related.

Depression was the most commonly managed problem by GPs in mental health-related visits, accounting for about one-third of these visits.

The rate of mental health-related hospitalisations also rose, with over 220,000 mental health-related hospitalisations occurring in 2010-11.  Over the 5 years to 2010-11 the average annual rate of increase in hospitalisations for mental health reasons was about 1.5%. Specialised psychiatric care was provided for almost 60% of these admissions.

'Depressive episode' and schizophrenia were the most commonly reported principal diagnoses for hospitalisations involving specialised psychiatric care (17% and 16% respectively).

Over 23 million prescriptions for mental health-related medications were subsidised in 2011-12.  This accounts for 11% of all prescriptions subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme or Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Most of these prescriptions were provided by GPs (86%), with a further 8% being provided by psychiatrists, and 6% by non-psychiatrist specialists.

Information about the use of specialist homelessness services (SHS) by people with a current mental health issue has been included in this data release. 

It shows that in 2011-12, over 40,000 SHS clients had a current mental health issue (about 1 in 4 of all SHS clients).

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, 2 August 2013 

Further information: Dr Pamela Kinnear, AIHW, tel. (02) 6249 5096, mob. 0421 600 377