Mental health-related prescriptions

Dispensing of mental health-related medications

In 2021, humanitarian entrants were more likely to be dispensed mental health-related medications than other permanent migrants but less likely than the rest of the Australian population for both males and females (Figure 3.3). Rates were 30% higher for females than males for humanitarian entrants (885 prescriptions per 1,000 females and 680 per 1,000 males).

The proportion of females who were dispensed mental health-related prescriptions were higher than males for humanitarian entrants (13% of females and 8.8% of males). A similar pattern was observed for the other permanent migrants (9.6% of females and 6.7% of males) and the rest of the Australian population (21% of females and 14% of males).

Of the total mental health-related medications dispensed for each population group, antidepressants accounted for 71% for humanitarian entrants and 79% for other permanent migrants and 73% for the rest of the Australian population.

The following data visualisation (Figure 3.3) provides a bar chart and data table, which can be accessed by using the tabs (top left-hand side). Date can be filtered by either age-standardised rate of mental health medications dispensed per 1,000 people or proportion of the population with a mental health medication dispensed.

Figure 3.3: Mental health-related medications dispensed by sex and population group, 2021

Mental health-related medication dispensing in humanitarian entrants was lower than the rest of the Australian population but higher than other permanent migrants for males and females.

Antidepressant prescriptions dispensed for humanitarian entrants

Rates of antidepressants dispensed were lower among humanitarian entrants compared to the rest of the Australian population and slightly higher than other permanent migrants in 2021 (See Medication prescriptions dispensed by medication group).

Among humanitarian entrants, antidepressant prescriptions were:

  • 50% higher for females than males (690 prescriptions per 1,000 people and 450 per 1,000 people respectively)
  • dispensed variably across age groups, ranging from more than 1 in 5 (20.3%) people in the 60–69 year age group, compared with less than 1 in 20 (4.8%) in the 20–29 year age group
  • dispensed variably across countries of birth, ranging from more than 1 in 7 people born in Bosnia and Herzegovina (18%), Croatia (17%), Kosovo (15%), Bhutan (15%) and Iran (16%) compared with 1 in 50 people from Thailand (2%) and India (2%).

Further data on mental health outcomes in the humanitarian entrant population can be found in:

Mental health-related medications (prescribed by all medical practitioners or nurse practitioners) reported in this section comprise the broad groups:

  • Psycholeptics
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anxiolytics
  • Hypnotics and sedatives
  • Psychoanaleptics
  • Antidepressants
  • Psychostimulants 
  • Agents used for Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Nootropics.

When interpreting these results, it is important to note some medications classified as mental health-related medications may be prescribed for reasons other than the treatment of mental health conditions. For example, some antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (brand name ENTRIP, Endep), are more commonly used for the treatment of chronic pain and migraine prevention. The PBS data does not include medications dispensed to admitted patients in public hospitals. For more information about the PBS data, see Technical note.


Person-Level Integrated Data Asset (PLIDA), 2021, PLIDA Modular Product, ABS DataLab. Findings based on use of PLIDA data.