Epidemiological analysis of electroconvulsive therapy in Victoria, Australia


  • Debra A. Wood,

    Corresponding author
      Debra A. Wood, Psychiatrist (Correspondence)
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  • Philip M. Burgess

    1. Debra A. Wood, Psychiatrist (Correspondence)
      Outer East Area Mental Health Services, Maroondah Hospital, PO Box 135, Ringwood East, Victoria 3135, Australia. Email:debra.wood@maroondah.org.au (Affiliation at time of work) Senior Project Officer, Office of the Chief Psychiatrist, Mental Health Branch, Department of Human Services, Victoria, Australia

      Philip M. Burgess, Associate Professor and Head
      Policy and Analysis Group, Mental Health Research Institute, Victoria, Australia
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Debra A. Wood, Psychiatrist (Correspondence)


Objective: To determine the population-based utilization rate of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in Victoria between 1998−1999, to examine the characteristics of the ECT treated group, and to identify patient factors independently associated with differential rates of ECT treatment.

Method: Electroconvulsive therapy is reported under statute in Victoria, Australia. Crude, age-adjusted and age−sex specific utilization rates were calculated using this statutory data for the 1998−1999 financial year and estimated mid-year populations from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Descriptive characteristics of those treated with ECT were derived from the statutory data. Patient factors associated with an increased likelihood of ECT in the public sector were explored with logistic regression analysis, using non-ECT treated mental health patients from the Victorian Psychiatric Case Register as the reference population.

Results: The crude treated-person and age-adjusted rates for the State (both public and private sectors) were 39.9 and 44.0 persons per 100 000 resident population per annum, respectively. The crude and age-adjusted administration rates were 330.3 and 362.6 ECT administrations per 100 000 resident population per annum, respectively. Age−sex specific rates varied by age and sex, with rates generally increasing with age and female sex. Overall, 62.8% of the treated group were women, 32.9% aged over 64, and 75.2% had depression. Diagnosis, age and sex each independently predicted ECT in the public sector, with diagnosis the most important factor, followed by age then sex.

Conclusions: Despite decades of use, the appropriate rate of ECT utilization is still unclear. Further research should be directed at exploring the factors, including provider variables, determining ECT treatment.