Government-subsidised mental health services are underused in Australian residential aged care facilities

Monica Cations, Luke R. Collier, Gillian Caughey, Jonathan Bartholomaeus, Catherine Lang, Maria Crotty, Gillian Harvey, Steven Wesselingh, Megan Corlis, Maria C. Inacio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective To describe patterns of use of the available Government-subsidised mental health services among people living in Australian residential aged care facilities.

Methods A retrospective population-based trend analysis was conducted, including all non-Indigenous people living in an Australian facility between 2012 and 2017. Adjusted incidence proportions and trends were estimated for four groups of mental health services.

Results The use of Medicare-subsidised mental health services was very low overall. The proportion of residents who accessed primary care mental health services increased from 1.3% in 2012/2013 to 2.4% in 2016/2017, while psychiatry service use increased from 1.9 to 2.3%. Claims for clinical psychology increased from 0.18 to 0.26%, and claims for a registered psychologist, occupational therapist or social worker rose from 0.45 to 1.2%. People with dementia were less likely than people without dementia to access all services aside from psychiatry services.

Conclusions Less than 3% of residents accessed funding subsidies for mental health services and people with dementia experienced pronounced barriers to service access. Mental health care is a pillar of the publicly-funded health system in Australia, and low use of these services among aged care residents indicates a need for organisational and policy changes to improve access.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-441
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number4
Early online date1 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Policy
  • Health services
  • Psychology
  • Mental health
  • Aged care
  • Older adults
  • Primary care
  • Psychiatry
  • Dementia


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