Patient characteristics

Demographic characteristics

The 2015–16 BEACH survey indicates that people aged 65+ (1,198.2 per 1,000 population) had the highest rate of mental health-related estimated GP encounters, compared to the general population (749.9) (Figure GP.4).

Figure GP.4: Estimated mental health-related GP encounters, by age group, 2015–16

Vertical bar chart depicting the mental health-related estimated GP encounters per 1,000 population, by age group sourced from the 2015–16 BEACH survey. Patients aged younger than 15 had a rate of 153.7 per 1,000 population, 15–24 518.5, 25–34 668.2, 35–44 880.0, 45–54 1,005.9, 55–64 998.1 and 65+ 1,198.2. Refer to table GP.2

Source: BEACH survey of general practice activity.

Source data: Mental health services provided by general practitioners Table GP.2 (4.3MB XLS)

Females had a higher rate of mental health-related estimated GP encounters than males (860.0 and 625.9 per 1,000 population respectively). After adjusting for differences in age structure between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, the rate of encounters was higher for non-Indigenous Australians than for Indigenous Australians (658.6 and 578.7 per 1,000 population respectively). For remoteness area categories, the rate of encounters was highest for people living in Inner Regional areas (947.5 per 1,000 population) while the rate for people living in Remote and very remote areas was the lowest (339.2).

The MBS contains data on Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific GP activity, which provides a different view to the BEACH survey.

Figure GP.5 shows the age profile of patients who received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific GP services. In 2015–16, the rate for GP services was 135.5 services per 1,000 population. The rate of services was lowest for those aged less than 15 years (48.4 per 1,000 population). The rate increased with age group, peaking at the 35–44 year age group (195.5 per 1,000 population), then decreased with advancing age. 

Figure GP.5: Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific GP services per 1,000 population, by age group, 2015–16

Vertical bar chart showing the service rates for people receiving a Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific GP service in 2015–16. Patients aged younger than 15 had a rate of 48.4 per 1,000 population, 15–24 171.7, 25–34 182.6, 35–44 195.5, 45–54 173.1, 55–64 137.4 and 65+ 79.3. Refer to table GP.8

Source: Medicare Benefits Schedule data (Department of Health).

Source data: Mental health services provided by general practitioners Table GP.8 (4.3MB XLS)

In 2015–16, the rate of Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific GP services was higher for females than males (167.5 and 103.3 per 1,000 population, respectively). Those living in Inner Regional areas had the highest rate (146.0 per 1,000 population) while those living in Very Remote areas had the lowest (29.4 per 1,000 population).

Problems encountered

The BEACH survey found that Depression, Anxiety and Sleep disturbance were the 3 most frequently GP managed mental health-related problems in 2015–16, accounting for 60.8% of all mental health-related problems managed (Figure GP.6) and 5.1% of all health problems managed. Mental health-related problems were managed at a rate of 13.1 per 100 encounters, including encounters where multiple problems were managed.

Figure GP.6: Estimated GP encounters for the 10 most frequent mental health-related problems managed, 2015–16

Horizontal bar chart, including 95%25 confidence intervals, showing the rates of encounters for the 10 most frequently managed mental health-related problems from the 2015–16 BEACH survey. Depression was the most frequently managed mental health related problem (4.2 per 100 encounters), followed by anxiety (2.2), sleep disturbance (1.6), acute stress reaction (0.8), schizophrenia (0.5), dementia (0.5), tobacco abuse (0.5), drug abuse (0.4), alcohol abuse (0.3), and affective psychosis (0.3). Refer to table GP.3.

Source: BEACH survey of general practice activity.

Source data: Mental health services provided by general practitioners Table GP.3 (4.3MB XLS)

Management of problems

According to the 2015–16 BEACH survey, the most common form of management of mental health related problems was the prescription, supply or recommendation of medications (61.6 per 100 mental health-related problems managed).

Antidepressants were the most commonly prescribed, recommended or supplied medication (27.8), followed by Anxiolytics (9.8), and Hypnotics and Sedatives (9.1) (Figure GP.7).

Figure GP.7: Most common medications prescribed, recommended or supplied during mental health-related GP encounters, 2015–16

Horizontal bar chart, including 95%25 confidence intervals, showing the rates of the most common medications prescribed, recommended or supplied by GPs during mental health-related encounters. Antidepressants were the most commonly prescribed, recommended or supplied medication (27.8 per 100 mental health-related problems), followed by anxiolytics (9.8), hypnotics and sedatives (9.1), and antipsychotics (6.6). Refer to table GP.5.

Source: BEACH survey of general practice activity.

Source data: Mental health services provided by general practitioners Table GP.5 (4.3MB XLS)

The second most common form of management of mental health-related problems was counselling, advice or other clinical treatments provided by a GP (49.6 per 100 mental health-related problems managed) withPsychological counselling (22.6) being the most frequently provided treatment in this category.

Referrals were given at a rate of 18.8 per 100 mental health-related problems managed. The most common referrals made by GPs for mental health-related problems were to psychologists (9.3) and to psychiatrists (2.7) (Figure GP.8).

Figure GP.8: Most common referral types for management of mental health-related problems for GP encounters, 2015–16

Horizontal bar chart, including 95%25 confidence intervals, showing the rates of the most common referral types for management of mental health-related problems in the 2015–16 BEACH survey. The most common referrals were to psychologists (9.3 per 100 mental health-related problems managed), followed by psychiatrists (2.7), sleep clinics (1.1), paediatricians (0.8), and mental health team (0.4). Refer to table GP.5.

Source: BEACH survey of general practice activity.

Source data: Mental health services provided by general practitioners Table GP.5 (4.3MB XLS)

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