Mental health

Good mental health is a key factor associated with healthy ageing, and this is determined by a combination of psychological, biological and/or social and cultural factors [4]. While the prevalence of mental health disorders tends to decrease with age [1], there are certain sub-groups of the older population that are at higher risk. These groups include people in hospital, supported accommodation, people with dementia, and older carers [3]. Good access to effective clinical and non-clinical services can help support older people with their mental health.

Mental health services

Older Australians access services to support their mental health needs through a number of pathways, including: hospital and community-based services, emergency departments, GPs, medical specialists and/or allied health professionals. Due to the diversity of mental health support services available; there is no single, overarching data collection which can be used to report on the mental health care being received by older Australians.

In 2016–17, people aged 65 and over received 950,000 Medicare-subsidised mental health related services. These services represented 9% of the total 11 million mental health-related services subsidised by Medicare in that year [2]. GPs, psychologists and psychiatrists provided a similar proportion of the mental health-related services received by people aged 65 and over (Figure 1).

In 2015–16, there were 46,500 hospital separations for Australians aged 65 and over that had overnight admitted mental health-related care (representing 19% of all mental health related separations). For two-thirds (67%) of these separations, the patient had not received any specialised care within a psychiatric unit or ward, compared with 36% for mental health-related separations for all ages [2]. For community mental health services during the same period, older people accounted for 779,000 service contacts (8% of the total) [2].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2008. National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing 2007: Summary of Results. Cat. No. 4326.0. Canberra: ABS.
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018. Mental health services in Australia. Canberra: AIHW. Viewed 2 March 2018.
  3. Rickwood D 2005. Pathways of recovery: preventing further episodes of mental illness. Canberra: National Mental Health Promotion and Prevention Working Party.
  4. World Health Organization (WHO) 2013. Mental health and older adults. Factsheet no. 381. Geneva: WHO.