Mental health care needs and access among Australian men: A data linkage study

Ten to Men Insights #2 Report: Chapter 2

Content type
Commissioned report

October 2022


Clement Wong, Karlee O'Donnell, Jennifer Prattley, Brendan Quinn, Rebecca Jenkinson, Rukhsana Tajin, Bosco Rowland

Commissioning Body

Ten to Men


Men's mental health remains a significant public health concern and a priority issue for Australia. In 2020-21, 7.8% of Australian men were estimated to have depression or feelings of depression while slightly more (10.6%) had an anxiety-related condition.

While mental ill-health constitutes a substantial cost to the public health system (Doran & Kinchin, 2019), Australian men tend to have lower usage of health care in general compared to women, despite comparable health needs (Burgess et al., 2009; Mansfield, Addis, & Mahalik, 2003).

Understanding patterns of mental health care use among men in Australia is essential for addressing this gap, particularly in the context of ongoing mental health needs. This chapter addresses this issue in six different ways. First, using data collected across the first three waves (2013-21) of Ten to Men: The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health (TTM), it outlines Australian men's self-reported experience and trajectories of depressive symptoms, as measured by the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Second, this chapter examines the different types of mental health services and mental health prescriptions accessed by Australian men through linked Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data. Third, patterns of health care usage over time, and typical monetary costs paid by men for health care, are presented. Fourth, differences in several priority population groups identified in the National Men's Health Strategy 2020-20301 are highlighted. Fifth, factors associated with the non-use of mental health care among men are presented. Finally, the chapter examines patterns of mental health service usage during COVID-19-related restrictions in 2020.

Key messages

  • Around three in 10 Australian men accessed a mental health service at least partly funded by the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) at some point between 2012 and 2021. Almost one in three were prescribed mental health medications at least partly funded by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) during the same period.

  • The most commonly used MBS-funded mental health service was a mental-health-specific general practitioner (GP) consultation; antidepressants were the most commonly prescribed PBS-funded pharmaceutical for mental health. Use of both these forms of mental health care became more common over time among Australian men.

  • The proportion of visits to services that involved no out-of-pocket expenses included 84% of visits to GPs for mental health reasons, 30% of visits to psychiatrists and 50% of visits to psychologists.

  • Men's use of MBS- or PBS-funded mental health care differed by socio-economic factors; usage tended to be higher among men who were older, less educated, unemployed or who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. These usage differences were more pronounced in mental health prescriptions compared to mental health services.

  • Conformity to traditional masculine norms was associated with reduced use of mental health care services among those in need (i.e. those with greater depressive symptoms).

  • Rates of mental health service use between March 2020-February 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, were similar to pre-COVID levels (January 2018-February 2020); however, 18% of services during COVID-19 were delivered through expanded telehealth measures.


The authors of this Insights #2 report chapter are extremely grateful to the many individuals and organisations who contributed to its development, and who continue to support and assist in all aspects of the Ten to Men study. The Department of Health and Aged Care commissioned and continues to fund Ten to Men. The study’s Scientific Advisory and Community Reference Groups provide indispensable guidance and expert input. The University of Melbourne coordinated Waves 1 and 2 of Ten to Men, and Roy Morgan collected the data at both these time points. The Social Research Centre collected Wave 3 data. A multitude of AIFS staff members collectively work towards the goal of producing high-quality publications of Ten to Men findings. We would also especially like to thank every Ten to Men participant who has devoted their time and energy to completing study surveys at each data collection wave

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Wong, C., O’Donnell, K., Prattley, J., Jenkinson, R., Tajin, R., & Rowland, B. (2022). Mental health care needs and access among Australian men: A data linkage study. In B. Quinn, B. Rowland, & S. Martin (Eds.), Insights #2 report: Findings from Ten to Men – The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health 2013-21. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.