The mental health of Australians 2

Service use in the Australian population

Page last updated: May 2009

Mental health care in Australia is provided through a combination of primary health care services principally by general practitioners, specialised public mental health services managed by states and territories, private sector services delivered by psychiatrists and psychologists, and hospital services.

  • Of the total population, 11.9% used health services for mental health problems in the previous 12 months. Three-fifths of users had mental disorders in the previous 12 months and one-fifth had lifetime disorders (figure 4).

  • Not all people who used services were assessed as having a mental disorder. Many will have sought care for mental health problems, but were not sufficiently unwell to be diagnosed with a mental disorder. Others will have had disorders not covered by the survey, such as schizophrenia or personality disorders.

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

  • By contrast about two thirds or 2.2 million people with mental disorders did not report using services for their mental health problems. Around 90% of these reported that they did not need services.

  • People with affective disorders (including depression) were more likely than people with anxiety or substance use disorders to use services for their mental health problems (figure 5).

  • Females were more likely to use services for mental health problems than males (40.7% compared with 27.5%) and this was true for all age groups (figure 6).

  • Among those with 12-month mental disorders who used services, general practitioners were the most commonly consulted group of health care professionals (70.8%), followed by psychologists (37.7%).

  • 28.9% of people with 12-month mental disorders who used services saw a general practitioner only, but two thirds (64.2%) saw a mental health professional alone or in combination with a general practitioner. Top of page

Figure 4: Proportion of population who used services for mental health problems in the previous 12 months by mental disorder status


Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 4: Proportion of population who used services for mental health problems in the previous 12 months by mental disorder status

Text version of figure 4

This chart shows the mental disorder status of people using services for mental health problems in the previous 12 months:
  • Lifetime mental disorder 19.8%
  • Mental disorder in the previous 12 months 58.7%
  • No mental disorder 21.5% Top of page

Figure 5: Proportion of people who used services for mental health problems by mental disorder class

Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 5: Proportion of people who used services for mental health problems by mental disorder class

Text version of figure 5

Proportion of people who used services for mental health problems:
  • Affective disorders - 58.6%
  • Anxiety disorders - 37.8%
  • Substance use disorders - 24.0%
Top of page

Figure 6: Service use among people with 12-month mental disorders by sex and age


Refer to the following text for a text equivalent of Figure 6: Service use among people with 12-month mental disorders by sex and age

Text version of figure 6

This graph shows service use (%) on the vertical axis and age group along the horizontal axis, with data shown for both males and females. No figures are provided, but the graph shows that:
  • Service use is higher for females than for males
  • Service use by males is lowest for the 16-24 years group, increasing to 45-54 years, then decreasing to 75-85 years
  • Service use by females is distributed more irregularly, with the lowest service use by 75-85 year olds and the highest by 65-74 year olds.
Top of page