Medicare services

Medicare-subsidised mental health‑specific services are provided by psychiatrists, general practitioners (GPs), psychologists and other allied health professionals. The services described here are provided in a range of settings, for example hospitals, consulting rooms, home visits, over the phone, and online videoconferencing as defined in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Information on both patient and service provider characteristics are presented and is limited to MBS-subsidised services only. For further information on the MBS data, refer to the data source section on this website. Additional information on Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services provided by GPs is available in the General practice section.

Data downloads:

Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services 2016–17 tables (3.4MB XLS)

Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services 2016–17 section (1.5MB)

Data presented covers the time period 1984–85 to 2016–17. This section was last updated in February 2018.

Key points

  • 2.4 million Australians (9.8% of Australians) received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services in 2016–17.

  • 9.8% of Australians received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services in 2016–17, an increase from 5.7% in 2008–09.

  • 11.7% of Australian females accessed Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services compared to 7.9% of Australian males in 2016–17.
  • 11.1 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services were provided by psychiatrists, GPs, psychologists and other allied health professionals in 2016–17.

  • GPs provided the most Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services during 2016–17.

People receiving services

In 2016–17, 2.4 million Australians (9.8% of the population) received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services. Victoria (10.7% of the Victorian population) had the highest proportion of the population receiving services and the Northern Territory had the lowest (4.7% of the Northern Territory population) (Figure MBS.1).

Source data: Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services 2016–17 tables (3.4MB XLS)

The highest proportion of people receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services were aged 35–44 years (13.4% of Australians in this age group), followed by 25–34 years (12.8%) and 15–24 years (12.6%) while the lowest proportion of people were aged less than 15 years (5.1%) (Figure MBS.2). A higher proportion of females (11.7% of the female population) accessed services compared with males (7.9%). The proportion of Indigenous Australians (10.8% of the Indigenous population) receiving services was similar to non-Indigenous Australians (10.1%), noting the data coverage issues relating to the Voluntary Indigenous Identifier (see the data source section for further information). The proportion of the Australian population receiving services varies according to the remoteness area of patient’s residence. The proportion of people receiving services was similar for inner regional and major city areas (10.4% and 10.2 % respectively), whilst the proportion of patients receiving services decreased with increasing remoteness to 2.8% of people living in very remote areas.

Source data: Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services 2016–17 tables (3.4MB XLS)

In 2016–17, 8.1% of the Australian population received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services from a general practitioner (GP), 2.7% from a psychologist (other), 2.0% from a clinical psychologist, 1.6% from a psychiatrist, and 0.4% from an allied health professional, noting that an individual may receive services from more than one provider type. The number of people reported here as receiving services from GPs is limited to services billed against mental health-specific MBS item numbers, which is a sub-component of GP mental health-related activity. It is unclear how many additional people receive GP mental health-related care that is billed as consultation against generic GP MBS item numbers. See the General practice section for further information.

Over time

The number of people receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services increased from 1.2 million (5.7% of Australians) in 2008–09 to 2.4 million (9.8% of Australians) in 2016–17. The growth over this time was mostly due to an increase in the proportion of Australians receiving services from GPs and the psychologists (Figure MBS.3), noting that people may receive services from more than one provider type (that is, the proportions presented in MBS.3 cannot be added to derive the total).

Source data: Medicare-subsidised mental health-related services 2016–17 tables (3.4MB XLS)