Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services

Medicare-subsidised mental health‑specific services are provided by psychiatrists, general practitioners (GPs), psychologists and other allied health professionals. The services described here are provided in a range of settings— for example, hospitals, consulting rooms, home visits and online videoconferencing— as defined in the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS). Information is presented on both patient and service provider characteristics and is limited to MBS-subsidised services only. These data relate only to mental health services that are claimed under specific mental health care MBS item numbers, which is a sub-component of GP mental health-related activity. Therefore, the reported number of patients who receive mental health related services is likely to be an underestimate of total mental health care activity. It is unclear how many additional people receive GP mental health-related care that is billed as a consultation against generic GP MBS item numbers. For further information on the MBS data, refer to the data source section on this website.

Data downloads:

Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services 2018–19 tables (142KB XLS)

Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services 2018–19 section (286KB)

Data presented covers the time period 1984–85 to 2018–19. This section was last updated in January 2020.

Key points

  • 2.7 million Australians received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services in 2018–19.
  • 10.6% of Australians received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services in 2018–19, an increase from 5.7% in 2008–09.
  • 12.6% of Australian females accessed Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services compared to 8.5% of Australian males in 2018–19.
  • 12.1 million Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services were provided by psychiatrists, GPs, psychologists and other allied health professionals in 2018–19.
  • Psychologists (including clinical psychologists) provided the most Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services during 2018–19.

People receiving services

In 2018–19, 2.7 million Australians (10.6% of the population) received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services. Victoria had the highest proportion of the population receiving services (11.3% of the Victorian population) and the Northern Territory had the lowest (5.4% of the Northern Territory population) (Figure MBS.1).

Figure MBS.1: Proportion of  population receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, by states and territories, 2018-19.

Vertical bar graph showing the proportion of each state and territories population who received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, by state or territory in 2018–19. Victoria (11.3%) and Queensland (11.1%) had a higher proportion of the population accessing services compared with the national total (10.6%). Of the remaining states and territories, New South Wales had 10.4% of the population receiving services, followed by South Australia (10.1%), Tasmania (10.0%), Western Australia (9.7%), Australian Capital Territory (9.3%) and Northern Territory (5.4%). Refer to Table MBS.1. 

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Source data: Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services tables (142KB XLS)

The highest proportion of people receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services were aged 18–24 years (14.4% of Australians in this age group), followed by 35–44 years (14.1%) and 25–34 years (13.9%), while the lowest proportion of people were aged 0–4 years (1.1%) (Figure MBS.2). A higher proportion of females (12.6% of the female population) accessed services compared with males (8.5%). The proportion of the Australian population receiving services varied according to the remoteness area of patient’s residence. The proportion of people receiving services was the same for Major cities and Inner regional areas (11.0%), whilst the proportion of patients receiving services decreased with increasing remoteness to 2.9% of people living in Very remote areas.

Figure MBS.2: Proportion of population receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, by demographic group 2018-19.

Horizontal bar graph showing the percentage of specific demographic populations who received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services during 2018–19, by key demographics. In 2018–19, patients aged 0–4 years (1.1% of Australians in this age group) were the lowest users of services. The proportion of the population accessing services increased for people aged 5–11 years (7.1%) and 12–17 years (12.2%); was highest for the age groups 18–24 (14.4%), 25–34 (13.9%) and 35–44 (14.1%); and then gradually decreased for the age groups 45–54 years (12.5%) and 55–64 years (10.1%), 65–74 years (6.9%), 75–84 years (5.4%) and 85 years and over (3.6%). By sex, a greater proportion of females (12.6%) accessed services compared with males (8.5%). For remoteness area, a similar proportion of people living in Major cities and Inner regional areas (11.0%) accessed services, and the percentage of the population accessing services decreased as remoteness increased: Outer regional (8.6%), Remote (5.7%) and Very remote (2.9%). Refer to Table MBS.2.

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Source data: Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services tables (142KB XLS)

In 2018–19, 8.7% of the Australian population received Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services from a general practitioner (GP); 1.6% received services from a psychiatrist; 2.1% received Psychological Therapy Services from a clinical psychologist; 2.9% received psychology services other than Psychological Therapy Services, from a psychologist (clinical psychologist or other psychologist); and 0.4% received services from other allied health professionals, noting that an individual may receive services from more than one provider type. The number of people reported here as receiving services from GPs is limited to services billed against mental health-specific MBS item numbers, which is a sub-component of GP mental health-related activity. It is unclear how many additional people receive GP mental health-related care that is billed as a consultation against generic GP MBS item numbers; however, the results of the 2015–16 the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) survey suggest that this number is likely to be substantial. The BEACH survey estimated that, in 2015–16, 12.4% (18 million encounters or 749.9 encounters per 1,000 population) of all GP encounters were mental-health related. In the same year about 3.2 million (or 135.5 services per 1,000 population) Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services were provided. Further information can be found in the General practice section.

Over time

The number of people receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services increased from 1.2 million (5.7% of Australians) in 2008–09 to 2.7 million (10.6% of Australians) in 2018–19. The percentage of Australians receiving services from psychiatrists was 1.3% in 2008–09 increasing to 1.6% in 2018–19, GPs 4.3% to 8.7%, clinical psychologists involving Psychological Therapy Services 0.8% to 2.1%, clinical psychologists (not involving Psychological Therapy Services), and other psychologists 1.5% to 2.9%, and other allied health services 0.1% to 0.4% (Figure MBS.3).

Figure MBS.3: Proportion of the Australian population receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health-specific services, by provider type 2008-10 to 2018-19.

Line graph showing the percentage of Australians receiving Medicare-subsidised mental health services by provider from 2008–09 to 2018–19. The percentage of Australians receiving services from psychiatrists was 1.3% in 2008–09 increasing to 1.6% in 2018–19, GPs 4.3% to 8.7%, clinical psychologists 0.8% to 2.1%, other psychologists 1.5% to 2.9%, and other allied health services 0.1% to 0.4%. Refer to Table MBS.4.

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