Key concepts

Mental health-related prescriptions

Key concept Description
Mental health‑related medications Mental health‑related medications are defined in this section as 5 selected medication groups as classified in the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) Classification System (WHO 2011), namely antipsychotics (code N05A), anxiolytics (code N05B), hypnotics and sedatives (code N05C), antidepressants (code N06A), and psychostimulants and nootropics (code N06B)—prescribed by all medical practitioners (that is, general practitioners (GPs), non‑psychiatrist specialists and psychiatrists) (WHO 2016).
Prescriptions The information on prescriptions in this section is sourced from the processing of the PBS/RPBS and refers to medications prescribed by medical practitioners and subsequently dispensed by approved suppliers (community pharmacies or hospital pharmacies). Consequently, it is a count of prescriptions dispensed rather than a count of the prescriptions written by medical practitioners. 
Subsidised prescriptions

Subsidised prescriptions are prescriptions paid for through a Commonwealth government subsidy, either the PBS or the RPBS. Patients must satisfy a number of conditions before they can be eligible for subsidised prescriptions. Not all medications can be claimed under the scheme. See the data source section for more information.

Under co-payment prescriptions

Under co-payment prescriptions are those prescribed medications where the total cost of the prescription is under the threshold for PBS/RPBS subsidy, and the total cost is therefore covered by the patient. See the data source section for more information.



WHO 2011. ATC: Structure and principles. Oslo: WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology. Viewed April 2016.

WHO 2016. Lexicon of alcohol and drug terms published by the World Health Organization. Viewed May 2016.

Alternative text for Mental health-related prescription figures

Figure PBS.1

Bar chart showing the per cent of patients receiving mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and subsidised and under co-payment) by states and territories in 2016–17. New South Wales had 8.4% of the population receiving subsidised prescriptions, Vic (8.7%), Qld 9.9%), WA (8.1%), SA (11.0%), Tas (13.2%), ACT (5.9%), NT (3.4%), Australian total (9.0%). When considering subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions: NSW (15.5%), Vic (16.2%), Qld (18.2%), WA (16.7%), SA (18.4%), Tas (21.2%), ACT (15.3%), NT (8.7%), Australia total (16.6%). Refer to Table PBS.2. Back to Figure PBS.1.

Figure PBS.2

Horizontal bar chart showing the per cent of people receiving mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and under co-payment), by patient demographics for 2016–17. Rates were lowest for people aged less than 15 years (2.4% age specific population) gradually increasing to the highest rate for those 65 years and over (32.0%). The proportion of females (19.8% respective population) receiving prescriptions was higher than males (13.4%). Rates varied among patient residence: Inner regional areas were had the greatest proportion (21.1% of the Inner regional population), followed by people living in Outer regional areas (17.4%), Major cities (15.7%), Remote (12.3%) then Very remote (5.8%). Refer to Table PBS. 4. Back to figure PBS.2.

Figure PBS.3

Line chart showing the percent of patients receiving mental health-related subsidised prescriptions by year. In 2005–06 11.8% of the population had received mental health related subsidised prescriptions. This rate has declined, with 9.0% of the population receiving one of these prescriptions in 2016–17. The percent of people receiving subsidised and under co-payment prescriptions increased from 15.1% in 2012–13 to 16.6% in 2016–17. Refer to Table PBS.3. Back to figure PBS.3.

Figure PBS.4

Bar chart showing rate of mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised and under co-payment) per 1,000 population by jurisdiction in 2016–17. Subsidised prescription rates: NSW (880.4), Vic (961.6), Qld (1,053.3), WA (872.6), SA (1,159.2), Tas (1,402.4), ACT (636.7), NT (315.6), National total (955.8). Subsidised and under co-payment prescription rates: NSW (1,327.4), Vic (1,469.4), Qld (1,617.9), WA (1,457.9), SA (1,662.5), Tas (1,974.8), ACT (1,308.8), and NT (651.5), National total (1,465.7). Refer to Table PBS.3. Back to figure PBS.4.

Figure PBS.5

Stacked horizontal bar chart showing the number of mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised & under co-payment), by ATC group of medication and prescribing medical practitioner, 2016–17. Antidepressants were prescribed by: GP 22.5 million, non-psychiatrist specialists 0.7, psychiatrists 1.5. Antipsychotics: 3.0, 0.1, 0.7. Anxiolytics : 3.3, 0.1, 0.2. Hypnotics and sedatives: 2.2, 0.1, 0.05. Psychostimulants and nootropics: 0.2, 0.6, 0.3. Refer to Table PBS.6. Back to figure PBS.5.

Figure PBS.6

Line chart showing the rate of mental health-related prescriptions (subsidised only) per 1,000 population between 2005–06 and 2016–17. Rates of subsidised prescriptions: 1,014 for 2005–06, 956 for 2007–08, 996 for 2009–10, 1,038 for 2011–12, 1,070 for 2013–14, 1,010 for 2015–16, and 955.8 for 2016–17. Rates for subsidised and co-payment prescriptions: 1,292 for 2012–13, 1,469 for 2013–14, 1,495 for 2014–15, 1,504 for 2015–16 and 1,466 for 2016–17. Refer to Table PBS.7. Back to figure PBS.6.