The mental health of Australians 2

3.2 Service use by people with 12-month mental disorders

Page last updated: May 2009

One third (34.9%) of people with 12-month mental disorders used health services for mental health problems in the 12 months prior to interview. This is equivalent to 1.1 million Australians seeking help for their mental health problems during this 12-month period.

Hospital admissions constituted a relatively small part of the services used for mental health problems, with 2.6% or just over 80,000 people with 12-month mental disorders reporting at least one hospital admission for a mental health problem in the previous 12 months.

3.2.1 Sex and age profile of service users
3.2.2 Service use by class of mental disorder
3.2.3 Medication use by mental disorder class
3.2.4 Service use by comorbidity of mental disorder classes
3.2.5 Service use by severity of mental disorders

3.2.1 Sex and age profile of service users

Service use for mental health problems was higher among females than males. Two-fifths (40.7%) of females with 12-month mental disorders used services for mental health problems in the previous 12 months compared to just over one quarter (27.5%) of males.

Service use was lowest among the youngest and oldest age groups with less than one quarter of people in both age groups having used services for mental health problems in the previous 12 months (23.3% aged 16-34 years and 22.6% aged 75-85 years).

For males, service use was lowest among those aged 16-24 years (13.2%), peaked among the 45-54 year olds with almost two-fifths (38.6%) using services and then declined with age to 19.2% among males aged 75-85 years.

For females, service use was also lower in the youngest and oldest age groups, being lowest for females aged 75 to 84 years (24.6%) and slightly higher for females aged 16-24 years (31.2%). Unlike males, service use for females remained above 40% for all other age groups, that is those between 25 and 74 years.

The difference in service use between the sexes (figure 3-2) was greatest for those aged 16-24 years, with females being more than twice as likely to use services compared to males (31.2% in females compared to 13.2% in males). Top of page

Figure 3-2: service use by people with 12-month mental disorders by age and sex

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 3-2: service use by people with 12-month mental disorders by age and sex

Text version of figure 3-2

Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.
Age group (years)MalesFemales
16-24
12
32
25-34
25
41
35-44
32
46
45-54
37
43
55-64
32
44
65-74
30
46
75-85
18
25

3.2.2 Service use by class of mental disorder

People who experienced affective disorders in the 12 months prior to interview were more likely than people with anxiety or substance use disorders to access services for their mental health problems (table 3-1). Over half (58.6%) of all people with affective disorders used services for mental health problems in the 12 months prior to interview. This compares to approximately one third (37.8%) of people with anxiety disorders and one quarter (24.0%) of people with substance use disorders who used services.

Table 3-1: service use by 12-month mental disorder class

Table 3-1 is presented as a list in this HTML version for accessibility reasons. It is presented as a table in the PDF version.

Percentage of service use by disorder:
  • Affective disorders - 58.6%
  • Anxiety disorders - 37.8%
  • Substance use disorders - 24.0%
  • Any mental disorder - 34.9%
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3.2.3 Medication use by mental disorder class

One quarter of people (25.3%) with 12-month mental disorders used medications for mental health problems in the two weeks prior to interview (table 3-2). Similar to service use, medication use was highest for people with affective disorders (42.1%) compared to people with anxiety disorders (28.2%) and substance use disorders (15.8%).

Table 3-2: Medication use for mental health problems by 12-month mental disorder class

Table 3-2 is presented as a list in this HTML version for accessibility reasons. It is presented as a table in the PDF version.

Percentage of medication use by disorder:
  • Affective disorders - 42.1%
  • Anxiety disorders - 28.2%
  • Substance use disorders - 15.8%
  • Any mental disorder - 25.3%

3.2.4 Service use by comorbidity of mental disorder classes

Comorbidity refers to the occurrence of more than one disorder at the same time. It may refer to co-occurring mental disorders or co-occurring mental and physical disorders. In this section service use is reported for those people with mental disorders from one mental disorder class (affective disorder only, anxiety disorder only and substance use disorder only) and from two or more comorbid mental disorder classes (combinations of affective, anxiety and/or substance use disorders).

People experiencing all three classes of mental disorders in the 12 months prior to interview had the highest level of service with two thirds (65.4%) using services in the previous 12 months (table 3-3). Over half (55.9%) of people experiencing disorders from two classes used services and just over one quarter (27.3%) of people with disorders from only one class of mental disorder used services.

Figure 3-3 shows the proportion of people with different combinations of comorbid mental disorders that used services for mental health problems in the 12 months prior to interview. The level of service use was related both to the number of comorbid mental disorders and the class of mental disorders. People with affective disorders only reported higher use of services than people with anxiety disorders only and substance use disorders only (48.8% compared to 27.3% and 11.8% respectively).

Service use by people with a combination of affective and anxiety disorders was higher than among people with other combinations of two classes of mental disorder (68.4% compared to 27.8% for affective and substance use disorders and 30.0% for anxiety and substance use disorders). Service use by people with all three classes of disorders was equally high (65.4%).
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Table 3-3: service use by comorbidity of 12-month mental disorder classes

Table 3-3 is presented as a list in this HTML version for accessibility reasons. It is presented as a table in the PDF version.

Percentage of service use by disorder class:
  • One mental disorder class - 27.3%
  • Two mental disorder classes - 55.9%
  • Three mental disorder classes - 65.4%
  • Any mental disorder - 34.9%

Figure 3-3: service use by single and comorbid 12-month mental disorder classes

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 3-3: service use by single and comorbid 12-month mental disorder classes

Text version of figure 3-3

Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.

Service use by single and comorbid 12-month mental disorder class;
  • Affective disorder only - 50%
  • Anxiety disorder only - 28%
  • Substance use disorder only - 12%
  • Affective and anxiety disorders only - 71%
  • Affective and substance use disorders only - 28%
  • Anxiety and substance use disorders only - 30%
  • Affective, anxiety and substance use disorders - 67%
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3.2.5 Service use by severity of mental disorders

Service use also varied depending on the severity of the mental disorder. Service use was more common among people with more severe disorders. Almost two thirds (64.8%) of people with severe mental disorders used services in the previous 12 months compared to two-fifths (40.2%) of those with moderate mental disorders and less than one-fifth (17.9%) of people with mild mental disorders (table 3-4).

The same pattern of service use for the various levels of severity was also evident among people with anxiety disorders. However, although service use was highest among people with severe affective disorders (66.1%), it was also relatively high for people with moderate (51.4%) and mild (48.6%) affective disorders (figure 3-4). Service use was generally lower for those with severe substance use disorders, dropping significantly with lesser severity.

Table 3-4: service use by severity of 12-month mental disorders

Table 3-4 is presented as a list in this HTML version for accessibility reasons. It is presented as a table in the PDF version.

Percentage of service use by disorder severity:
  • Mild mental disorders - 17.9%
  • Moderate mental disorders - 40.2%
  • Severe mental disorders - 64.8%
  • Any mental disorder - 34.9%

Figure 3-4: service use by 12-month mental disorder class and severity

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 3-4: service use by 12-month mental disorder class and severity

Text version of figure 3-4

Figures in this description are approximate as they have been read from the graph.
Mental disorder classSevereModerateMild
Affective disorders
66
52
49
Anxiety disorders
71
42
18
Substance use disorders
54
28
11
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