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 and nootropics prescribed by all medical practitioners.

For further information on the PBS and Repatriation Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (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:

XLS DownloadXLS DownloadXLS DownloadMental health-related prescriptions 2017–18 tables (59KB XLS)

Mental health-related prescriptions 2017–18 section (633KB)

Data coverage includes the time period 2005–06 to 2017–18. This section was last updated in May 2019.

Key points

 

  • 37.7 million mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and under co-payment) were provided in 2017–18.
  • 4.2 million patients (16.8% of the Australian population) received mental health-related prescriptions, an average of 9.1 prescriptions per patient, in 2017–18.
  • 64.0% of all mental health-related prescriptions were subsidised by the PBS/RPBS in 2017–18.
  • 86.8% of the mental health-related prescriptions were prescribed by GPs; 7.8% prescribed by psychiatrists; 4.4% prescribed by non-psychiatrist specialists in 2017–18.
  • 70.0% of all mental health-related prescriptions were Antidepressant medications in 2017–18.

Overview

There were 37.7 million prescriptions for mental health-related medications (subsidised and under co-payment) dispensed in Australia in 2017–18. This is equivalent to 1,523.6 mental health-related prescriptions per 1,000 population. These prescriptions were provided to 4.2 million patients, which equates to 16.8% of Australians. There were an average of 9.1 prescriptions per patient in 2017–18.

Of the 37.7 million mental health related prescriptions, 24.2 million were subsidised under the PBS/RPBS and were provided to 2.4 million patients; an average of 10.1 prescriptions per patient in 2017–18.

Patient characteristics

Around 1 in 6 Australians (16.8% of the Australian population) received a mental health-related prescription in 2017–18. Tasmania (21.8% 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 (15.5%) had the lowest (excluding the Northern Territory – see the Note accompanying Figure PBS.1).

 

Figure PBS.1 Alternative text - Source data: XLS DownloadXLS DownloadXLS DownloadMental health-related prescriptions (59KB 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 drugs 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.

Patients aged less than 15 years (2.6% of the age specific population) were the age group with the lowest proportion of people receiving mental health-related subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions in 2017–18, with rates then increasing by age group to 31.5% for those aged 65 years and over (Figure PBS.2). A higher proportion of females received mental health-related prescriptions than males (20.0% and 13.6% of the respective populations). A greater proportion of people living in Inner regional areas were dispensed with mental health-related prescriptions (20.7% of the Inner regional population), followed by people living in Outer regional areas (18.1%), Major cities (16.1%), Remote (12.6%) and Very remote (7.0%) areas.

 

Figure PBS.2 Alternative text - Source data: XLS DownloadXLS DownloadXLS DownloadMental health-related prescriptions (59KB XLS).

Over time

The proportion of the population receiving subsidised and under co-payment mental health-related prescriptions has risen on average by 0.9% each year between 2013–14 and 2017–18. The proportion of people receiving subsidised mental health-related prescriptions has been relatively stable (data available from 2005–06) (Figure PBS.3).