Treatment of common mental disorders in Australian general practice

I. B. Hickie*, T. A. Davenport, S. L. Naismith, E. M. Scott, D. Hadzi-Pavlovic, A. Koschera

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To determine the rates and predictors of treatments for patients with common mental disorders in Australian general practice. Design and setting: Cross-sectional national audit of general practices throughout Australia in 1998-1999. Participants: 46 515 ambulatory care patients attending 386 GPs. Screening tools: Prevalence of common mental disorders - 12 items from the 34-item SPHERE self-report questionnaire and associated classification system; pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment provided, as reported by the GPs - questions relating to treatments provided; predictors of treatments - self-report questions about demography for patients and GPs, and about practice organization for GPs. Main outcome measures: GPs' reported provision of pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatments; and patient, GP and practice characteristics predicting treatment provision. Results: There were complete data on treatment for 39 983 patients. 27% (10 752) of all patients received some form of intervention; 21% (8304) received non-pharmacological and 12% (4765) received pharmacological treatments. Non-pharmacological treatments were mostly non-specific counselling and support (83%; 6892/8304). Among the 10 303 patients with the most severe level of psychological disorders, only 50% (5152) received any intervention (38% [3872] received non-pharmacological and 27% [2766] pharmacological treatments). Evidence-based treatments were provided to only 12% (4961) of all patients (and only 27% [2802] of the 10 303 with the most severe disorders). Although the newer antidepressant agents were commonly prescribed, older medications (mainly tricyclic antidepressants) were prescribed to older (OR, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.07-1.56), less educated (OR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.12-1.79) and female (OR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.23-1.70) patients. Among the 8304 patients receiving non-pharmacological treatments, specific (evidence-based) treatments were provided to only 17% (1412); these patients were typically middle-aged (OR, 2.94; 95% CI, 2.32-3.73) and the providing GPs were typically not in full-time practice (OR, 3.34; 95% CI, 2.56-4.17). Conclusion: Practitioners largely provide non-specific, non-pharmacological interventions for patients with common mental disorders. Even among those with the most severe disorders, only a minority receive pharmacological or specific evidence-based non-pharmacological treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S25-S30
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue numberSUPPL.
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2001
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Treatment of common mental disorders in Australian general practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this