National Women's Health Policy

Use of mental health services

Page last updated: 07 February 2011

Social and demographic factors also impact on service usage. Women are more likely to use services for mental health problems than men (40.7 per cent compared to 27.5 per cent) and this is true for all age groups. However, there are differences among women in their access to mental health services. Women most at risk may also be those who are least likely to know about, access and afford services. The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health found that older women who had a university education were 1.6 times more likely to seek counselling, and that women who sought counselling were twice as likely to have ancillary private health insurance as those who did not seek counselling.205

Women living in urban areas were more likely to use counselling services, as health and community services are more available in urban areas.206 In rural areas there is generally less direct access to mental health specialist services.207 Attitudinal barriers relating to perceived stigma, embarrassment and lack of confidentiality in rural areas can also be barriers to access. Aboriginal women and women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds may experience language and cultural barriers, culturally inappropriate services and difficulties navigating the health system. Access to health care services for same sex attracted women may be significantly inhibited by heterosexist attitudes among health professionals. More information is needed about who accesses services and about barriers to services for disadvantaged women.