Mental health-related prescriptions

This section presents Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) information on prescriptions for mental health-related medications; both subsidised prescriptions and under co-payment prescriptions (that is, prescriptions that cost less that the threshold for subsidy under the PBS). Mental health‑related medications reported in this section comprise antipsychotics, anxiolytics, hypnotics and sedatives, antidepressants, and psychostimulants and nootropics—prescribed by all medical practitioners.

For further information on the PBS and RPBS and the medications covered by these schemes, refer to the data source section. Related data on expenditure on medications subsidised under the PBS and RPBS are presented in the Expenditure section.

Data downloads:

Mental health-related prescriptions 2016–17 tables (676KB XLS)

Mental health-related prescriptions 2016–17 section (639KB)

Data coverage includes the time period 2005–06 to 2016–17. This section was last updated in February 2018.

Key points

  • 35.7 million mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and under co-payment) were provided in 2016–17.

  • 4.0 million patients received mental health-related prescriptions, an average of 8.8 prescriptions per patient, in 2016–17.

  • 65.2% of all mental health-related prescriptions were subsidised by the PBS/RPBS in 2016–17.
  • 87.4% of the mental health-related prescriptions were prescribed by GPs; 7.9% prescribed by psychiatrists; 4.6% prescribed by non-psychiatrist specialists in 2016–17.

  • 69.4% of all mental health-related prescriptions were Antidepressant medications in 2016–17.


There were 35.7 million prescriptions for mental health-related medications (subsidised and under co-payment) dispensed in Australia in 2016–17. This is equivalent to 1,465.7 mental health-related prescriptions per 1,000 population. These prescriptions were provided to 4.0 million patients, which equates to 16.6% of Australians. There were an average of 8.8 prescriptions per patient in 2016–17.

Of the 35.7 million mental health related prescriptions, 23.3 million were subsidised under the PBS/RPBS and were provided to 2.4 million patients; an average of 9.8 prescriptions per patient in 2016–17.

Patient characteristics

Around 1 in 6 Australians (16.6% of the Australian population) received a mental health-related prescription in 2016–17. Tasmania (21.2% of the Tasmanian population) had the highest proportion of people dispensed with mental health-related prescriptions, (subsidised or under co-payment), while the Australian Capital Territory (15.3%) had the lowest (excluding the Northern Territory – see the Note accompanying Figure PBS.1).

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Figure PBS.1 Alternative text - Source data: Mental health-related prescriptions (676KB XLS).

Note: A proportion of the Australian Government subsidy of pharmaceuticals in the Northern Territory is funded through the Aboriginal Health Service program, which is supplied through the Aboriginal Health Services rather than the PBS payment system. Therefore data presented for the Northern Territory represents an underestimate.

Patients aged less than 15 years (2.4% age specific population) were the age group with the lowest proportion of people receiving mental health-related subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions in 2016–17, with rates then increasing by age group to 32.0% for those aged 65 years and over (Figure PBS.2). A higher proportion of females received mental health-related prescriptions than males (19.8% and 13.4% of the respective populations). A greater proportion of people living in Inner regional areas were dispensed with mental health-related prescriptions (21.1% of the Inner regional population), followed by people living in Outer regional areas (17.4%), Major cities (15.7%), Remote (12.3%) and Very remote (5.8%) areas.

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Figure PBS.2 Alternative text - Source data: Mental health-related prescriptions (676KB XLS).

Over time

The proportion of people receiving mental health-related prescriptions has been relatively stable, both for subsidised prescriptions (data available from 2005–06) and subsidised and under co-payment (data available from 2012–13) (Figure PBS.3). The proportion of the population receiving subsidised and under co-payment mental health-related prescriptions has risen on average by 2.3% each year between 2012–13 and 2016–17.

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