How do Australia's males access health care?

The Australian health system provides a wide range of preventive, treatment and palliative health care services. Monitoring people’s health needs, their help-seeking behaviours, and their patterns of health service use helps governments and health service providers identify inequalities in access and predict future health care needs.

Medicare

The Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) records information on medical services and tests subsidised by the Australian Government. People who reside in Australia and are Australian or New Zealand citizens or hold a permanent visa are eligible for Medicare enrolment.

In 2017–18, Australia’s males claimed over 170 million services through Medicare, and received an average of 14 Medicare services per person in that year. By comparison, females claimed 19 Medicare services per person (Department of Health, 2018).

46

Medicare services claimed on average by males aged 75–84 in 2017–18

The average number of services claimed by males varies by age group. In 2017–18:

  • those aged under 45 claimed fewer than 8 services per person.
  • those aged 75 and over claimed more than 47 services per person.

Figure 7: Average number of Medicare services claimed by males, per person, by age group, 2017–18

This vertical bar chart shows the average number of Medicare services claimed are relatively low until the 25–34 age group when average claims begin to increase until a peak in the 85 and over age group.

Source: Department of Health, 2018 (Table S7)

Primary health care

In Australia, primary health care is usually a person’s first encounter with the health system when they have a health concern. Primary health care broadly encompasses health care that is not related to a hospital visit.

8 in 10

males reported visiting a GP in the previous 12 months

In 2017–18, 80% of males aged 15 and over reported visiting their GP in the last 12 months (ABS 2018).

Barriers to accessing health services may impede the best possible health outcomes for men.  In 2017–18, among males aged 15 and over (ABS 2018):

  • 1.0% reported not seeing a GP when they needed to in the previous 12 months
  • almost 1 in 6 (17.5%) waited longer than they felt acceptable to get an appointment with a GP
  • more than 1 in 40 (2.7%) delayed seeing, or did not see, a GP when needed due to cost reasons at least once in the past 12 months
  • 1 in 20 (5.1%) delayed getting, or did not get prescribed medication, due to cost.

The Ten to Men Australian longitudinal study on Male Health also captures self-reported information on the primary health care habits of Australia’s men  (Schlichthorts et al. 2016):

Nearly 1 in 10

men (8%) were unable to access health care when needed in the last 12 months

The proportion of men (aged 18+) visiting a GP varied by age and health status. In 2013–14:

  • The odds of visiting a GP increased with age and decreased with remoteness
  • Men with 3 or more health conditions were 4 times as likely to visit a GP in the last 12 months as those without an underlying health condition.

Of Australian men aged 45 years and over who had at least one GP visit in the 12 months between November 2014 and November 2015 (ABS 2017):

  • almost 1 in 5 (18%) reported that they had spoken to their GP about their emotional and psychological health
  • nearly 4 in 10 (39%) indicated that they received care from a health professional other than their GP or specialist doctor or nurse for their physical health (e.g. physiotherapist, podiatrist, dietitian)
  • almost 1 in 10 (8%) indicated that they received care from a health professional other than their GP or specialist doctor or nurse for their emotional or psychological health (e.g. psychologist, counsellor or social worker)
  • nearly 8 in 10 (79%) reported they were currently taking at least one medication on a regular and ongoing basis
  • almost 3 in 4 (73%) indicated they were always or usually involved in making decisions about their medications for their own health.

Private health insurance

In Australia, private health insurance is available for those who wish to fully or partly cover the costs of being admitted to hospital as a private patient and/or the costs of other ancillary health services.

In 2017–18, 57% of males reported having some form of private health insurance (ABS 2018). 47% had both hospital and extras cover, 6% had hospital only and 4% had extras only cover.

Admitted patient care

Admitted patient care refers to care provided by public and private hospitals to admitted patients. A hospitalisation is an episode of hospital care that starts with the formal admission process and ends with the formal separation process. 

In 2016–17, there were 5.2 million hospitalisations among males, accounting for 47% of all hospitalisations (AIHW 2018).

Hospitalisation rates generally increase with age, and are highest among men aged 85 and over.

Figure 8: Hospitalisation rate, males by age group, 2016–17

This vertical bar chart shows the rate of hospitalisations in males drop for younger age groups after a peak in the under 1 year age group. Hospitalisations then increase with age and are highest among men aged 85 and over.

Source: AIHW 2018 (Table S8).

Note: See boxes 1.1, 1.2 and appendixes A and B of Admitted patient care 2016–17 Australian hospital statistics for notes on data limitations and methods.

In 2013–14 to 2014–15, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males experienced 66 potentially preventable hospitalisations per 1,000 population (compared to 73 for Indigenous females, after adjusting for differences in age-structure). The Indigenous male rate of potentially preventable hospitalisations was 2.8 times higher than for non-Indigenous males, after adjusting for differences in age-structure (AIHW 2017).

References

  • ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2017. Survey of Health Care, Australia, 2016. ABS cat. no. 4343.0. Canberra: ABS.
  • ABS 2018. Patient Experiences in Australia: Summary of findings, 2017–18. ABS cat. no. 4839.0. Canberra: ABS.
  • AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2017. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health performance framework 2017 report: data tables.
  • AIHW 2018. Admitted patient care 2016–17: Australian hospital statistics. Health services series no. 84. Cat. no. HSE 201. Canberra: AIHW.
  • Department of Health 2018. Annual Medicare Statistics – Financial Year 1984–85 to 2017–18. Canberra: Department of Health.
  • Schlichthorts, M., et al. 2016. Why do men go to the doctor? Socio-demographic and lifestyle factors associated with healthcare utilisation among a cohort of Australian men. BMC Health 16:3, 81-90.