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Ten to Men study highlights barriers in the uptake of mental health services among men

A large proportion of men with depressive symptoms sampled by the latest Ten to Men longitudinal study did not access a relevant mental health service or prescription.

The latest Ten to Men report, based on a study of around 8000 participants, showed that while there is a clear increase in uptake of mental health services among men, “there are still some pressing barriers to address.”

Mental Health care needs and access among Australian men: a data linkage study is the latest release from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS)’s landmark Ten to Men series.

The report links Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data with other Ten to Men survey responses.

Program lead Dr Sean Martin said this latest chapter showed who is accessing mental health care in Australia, “but almost more importantly, who isn’t and the barriers they may be facing.”

The study found that:

  • 3 in 10 men accessed a mental health service at least partly funded by the Medicare Benefits Schedule between 2012 and 2021.
  • 3 in 10 men were prescribed mental health medications at least partly funded by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme between 2012 and 2021. The most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals were anti-depressants.
  • 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 usages were more pronounced in mental health prescriptions compared to mental health services.
  • Conformity to masculine norms was associated with reduced use of mental health care services among those with depressive symptoms.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 7.8% of Australian men were estimated to have depression or feelings of depression while 10.6% had an anxiety-related condition between 2020 and 2021.

The Productivity Commission (2020) estimates the total cost of mental ill-health to the Australian economy is around $70 billion annually, with costs of disability, self-harm, suicide and premature death due to mental ill-health estimated at another $151 billion.

Australian men tend to have lower usage of mental health care in general compared to women, despite comparable health needs.

“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,” state the authors of the Ten to Men study.

 “Overall, the findings presented in this chapter could help inform future policies.

“Evidence from the statistical modelling indicates that younger age, employment and a CALD background were all associated with non-access of mental health care funded under the MBS and PBS, even after reporting greater depressive symptoms. In consideration of previous literature, these findings may reflect low levels of health literacy, limited service availability and accessibility, experience of stigma and unfamiliarity with the health care system.”

The researchers emphasised that their findings related to the use of mental health services and pharmaceuticals funded under the MBS and PBS, and that it was likely that some participants may have accessed mental health care through primary health network-commissioned mental health and suicide prevention services, in addition to publicly funded state/territory mental health services.

“Future research could aim to explore patterns of non-MBS and PBS service access relating to mental ill-health among Australian males over time and how barriers and enablers differ between service types.

“Men’s use of services for their health needs, including for mental health, remains a public health priority.”

Download Ten to Men Insights Report: Chapter 2 Mental Health Care Needs And Access Among Australian Men: A Data Linkage Study.

Read: New Guide Helps Men to Help a Mate

Download: Know Your Man Facts Toolkit: Men’s Mental Health 


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