Mental health spending hits $9 billion, but retains steady proportion of government health spending

Spending on mental health-related services grew to $9 billion in 2015–16, while the share of government health spending dedicated to mental health has remained fairly stable, according to new information released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The information, published today in the AIHW’s Mental Health Services in Australia web report, shows that around $9 billion was spent nationally on mental health-related services in 2015–16, or about $373 per person, up from $354 in 2011–12. This is an average yearly increase of 1.4%.

When looking at government spending on mental health as a proportion of all government health spending, today’s release shows that mental health has remained just below 8% for the past few years.

‘In 2015–16, the proportion of health spending governments spent on mental health was 7.7%, slightly down from 7.8% a year earlier, but up from 7.5% in 2011–12,’ said AIHW spokesperson Matthew James.

Of the $9 billion spent in 2015–16, most was funded by state and territory governments (about 60% of total mental health spending, or $5.4 billion), followed by the Australian Government (35%, or $3.1 billion) and private health insurance funds (5%, or $466 million).

‘This split has remained fairly stable over time,’ Mr James said.

Today’s release also provides new data on the use of restrictive practices in mental health facilities, and builds on last year’s data on the use of restraint in mental health facilities.

Restrictive practices include seclusion (where a patient is confined alone in a room from which free exit is prevented) and restraint. Restraint can be either physical (for example, hands-on immobilisation techniques performed by health care staff) or mechanical (the use of devices such as belts or straps).

‘We’re seeing a continued fall in the rate of seclusion use in acute mental health hospital services, and for the first time, data is now available which suggests a fall in the use of restraint.’ Mr James said.

The use of mechanical restraint has fallen from about 2 events per 1,000 days of patient care to 1 in 2016–17, while the use of physical restraint fell from about 9 events per 1,000 days of care in 2015–16 to 8 in 2016–17.

Updated data is also available today on Medicare services, mental health-related prescriptions, and specialised mental health care facilities. The updated information is available online at <>.


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