Mental health patients make up 3.6% of all Australian ED presentations

Doug Hendrie

3/05/2018 4:00:07 PM

A new Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found close to 300,000 people who presented to Australian emergency departments did so due to an issue of mental health.

News teaser
Drug use and stress-related issues account for many mental-health emergency presentations.

Mental health issues led to 276,000 people seeking help at emergency departments (EDs) in 2016–17, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) online report ‘Mental health services provided in emergency departments’ states.
In addition, just over a quarter of the mental-health-related presentations were due to drug use, and another quarter due to neurotic, stress-related and somatoform disorders.
Almost 80% of presentations were urgent or semi-urgent.
By contrast, one in eight GP visits was due to a mental health issue in 2015–16, up 4.7% annually since 2011–12. Depression was the most common issue cited.
The AIHW report found that while Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples make up around 3.3% of the Australian population, they accounted for 10.7% of mental-health-related ED presentations. The rate of mental-health-related ED presentations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was more than four times that for non-Indigenous Australians.
South Australia had the highest proportion of mental health ED presentations (4.8% of all visits) with Victoria the lowest (3.1%). The Northern Territory had the highest rate per 10,000 residents, with 266.9 versus the national average of 113.6. Victoria again had the lowest rate, at 86.7.
National spending on mental health grew to $9 billion – around $373 per person in 2015–16 – but the share of health spending has remained close to the same, at just below 8% of the overall health budget. 
Patients presenting with a mental health issues at the ED were more likely to be male than female (52% to 48%).                                                                                                                                               
People living in areas with the lowest socioeconomic status had the highest rate of mental-health-related ED presentations (26.8%), with the rate decreasing in accordance with increasing socioeconomic status to 13.8% for people in the least disadvantaged area.
People living in major cities accounted for almost two-thirds (65.6%) of mental-health-related ED presentations, compared to those in remote and very remote areas, which accounted for only 3.5%. However, the rate per 10,000 population of mental-health-related ED presentations for patients living in in major cities was the lowest (101.2), while that for patients in remote and very remote areas was the highest (185.3).

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