Trends in mental health service utilisation by Australia's older population

Jonathan D. Bartholomaeus, Luke R. Collier, Catherine Lang, Monica Cations, Andrew R. Kellie, Maria C. Inacio, Gillian E. Caughey

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Objectives: To examine the incidence, trends, and differences between age groups and sex in Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)-subsidised mental health service utilisation by older Australians over the past 10 years. Methods: A cross-sectional cohort study between 1 July 2009 and 30 June 2019 was conducted using publicly available MBS data for older individuals aged ≥65 years. Age- and sex-standardised yearly incidence rates of psychological therapy (MBS M06), GP mental health treatments (MBS A20), focussed psychological strategy (MBS M07), and psychiatric attendances (MBS A08) and incidence rate ratios (IRR) estimated using Poisson regression were calculated. Results: Overall, the rate of utilisation of primary care mental health services by the older population increased over the study period, with psychological therapy claims increasing the greatest from 14.4/1000 older persons in 2009/10 to 38.5/1000 in 2018/19 (IRR 1.11, 95% CI 1.09–1.13), followed by GP mental health treatments increasing from 43.7/1000 (95% CI 43.4–43.9) in 2009/10 to 81.0/1000 (95% CI 80.7–81.3) in 2018/19 (IRR 1.07/year, 95% CI 1.06–1.09). Females aged 65–74 years had the highest use of GP mental health treatments at 123.8/1000 compared to 63.6/1000 in males in 2018/2019. Conclusions: While utilisation of mental health services by the older population in Australia has increased over the study period, it is important that policymakers and service providers continue to support access and use of these services, which may facilitate well-being and quality of life in the older population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-164
Number of pages6
JournalAustralasian Journal on Ageing
Issue number1
Early online date1 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • health services
  • mental health
  • older people


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