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 than the threshold for subsidy under the PBS). Mental health‑related medications reported in this section comprise psycholeptics, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, hypnotics and sedatives, psychoanaleptics, antidepressants, and psychostimulants, agents used for Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 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 2018–19 tables (93KB XLS)

Mental health-related prescriptions 2018–19 section (347KB)

Data coverage includes the time period 2005–06 to 2018–19. Data in this section were last updated in January 2020.

Key points

 

  • 39.0 million mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and under co-payment) were provided in 2018–19.
  • 4.3 million patients (17.1% of the Australian population) received mental health-related prescriptions, an average of 9.0 prescriptions per patient, in 2018–19.
  • 62.7% of mental health-related prescriptions were subsidised by the PBS/RPBS in 2018–19.
  • 86.3% of mental health-related prescriptions were prescribed by GPs; 7.7% prescribed by psychiatrists; 4.5% prescribed by non-psychiatrist specialists in 2018–19.
  • 70.9% of mental health-related prescriptions were Antidepressant medications in 2018–19.

Overview

There were 39.0 million prescriptions for mental health-related medications (subsidised and under co-payment) dispensed in Australia in 2018–19. This is equivalent to 1,548.2 mental health-related prescriptions per 1,000 population. These prescriptions were provided to 4.3 million patients, which equates to 17.1% of Australians. There was an average of 9.0 prescriptions per patient in 2018–19.

Of the 39.0 million mental health related prescriptions, 24.5 million were subsidised under the PBS/RPBS and were provided to 2.4 million patients; an average of 10.0 prescriptions per patient in 2018–19.

Patient characteristics

More than 1 in 6 Australians (17.1% of the Australian population) received a mental health-related prescription in 2018–19. Tasmania (22.3% 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 (15.9%) had the lowest (excluding the Northern Territory – see the Note accompanying Figure PBS.1).

 
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Description of figure PBS.1 - Source data: Mental health-related prescriptions (93KB XLS).

Note: A proportion of the Australian Government subsidy of pharmaceuticals in remote Aboriginal communities (primarily the Northern Territory) is funded through the Aboriginal Health Service program, where medications are supplied directly to patients and hence are not included in this data. Therefore data presented for the Northern Territory are considered to be an underestimate.

The proportion of people receiving mental health-related subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions in 2018–19 was lowest for the youngest age groups (0.1% of people aged 0–4 years, 3.9% of people aged 5–11 years and 7.6% of people aged 12–17 years), increasing by age group to 43.2% for people aged 85 years and over (Figure PBS.2). A higher proportion of females received mental health-related prescriptions than males (20.2% and 13.8% 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 (18.4%), Major cities (16.3%), Remote (13.0%) and Very remote (7.1%) areas.

 
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Description of figure PBS.2 - Source data: Mental health-related prescriptions (93KB XLS).

Over time

The proportion of the population receiving PBS and RPBS subsidised and under co-payment mental health-related prescriptions has risen from 16.3% in 2014–15 to 17.1% in 2018–19, an average increase of 1.1% each year during this period. The proportion of people receiving subsidised mental health-related prescriptions has declined by an average of 1.9% per year over the same period, from 10.4% in 2014–15 to 9.6% in 2018–19 (Figure PBS.3). 

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