This guide provides an overview of the range of mental health and addiction data in the IDI as at August 2019. Key sources of mental health and addiction information are described along with some of the strengths and limitations of these datasets. Major gaps in mental health and addiction information are also discussed.


Mental distress, mental illness, and addictions are common.  It is estimated that each year approximately 20% (1 in 5) New Zealanders experience significant mental distress (Cunningham et al 2018).  Internationally there is well-established evidence of a “treatment gap” where the majority of those with diagnosable mental illness do not receive formal treatment (Kohn et al, 2004).

Currently in New Zealand, district health boards and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) provide specialist (secondary and tertiary) mental health and addiction care to approximately 4% of the population. This represents the group with the highest mental health needs and with mental health problems that are likely to be most disruptive to their lives. The vast majority (over 90%) of this care is provided in community settings. A small number of inpatient beds are available and are mostly used for short stays. This care includes mainstream as well as services using Māori and Pacific service models.

The majority of formal mental health care in New Zealand is provided in a primary care setting by general practitioners and other primary care staff. Data from 2004 indicated that each year approximately 9% of the New Zealand population visit a general medical health provider for a mental health problem (Oakley Browne et al., 2006), and this is likely to have increased in the intervening period.

While most psychiatric care in New Zealand is publicly funded, there are some private mental health services in New Zealand. These are mainly community services, where psychiatrists and clinical psychologists provide care for those not meeting the high severity criteria for specialist public care.

What data can I find in the IDI?

The key IDI dataset for mental health information is Programme for Integration of Mental Health Data (PRIMHD, formerly MHINC), and this is described below. In addition to PRIMHD there are a range of other administrative and survey datasets in IDI that contain mental health information. These are summarized in Table 1.


The PRIMHD dataset is the key mental health data collection in IDI. It records all service uses for publicly funded specialist mental health and addiction services nationally. This includes all publicly funded inpatient and community based services, including children, young people’s, and NGO mental health services. PRIMHD does not include primary care mental health services. At the time of writing PRIMHD data in IDI was available from July 2008 to end 2017. Similar information for the years 2000-2008 is available in MHINC.

In IDI the PRIMHD data is split into three parts: the main PRIMHD dataset containing information about service use; the diagnosis dataset containing formal psychiatric diagnoses (DSM, ICD); and the legal status dataset containing information about compulsory mental health care. An additional dataset also contains supplementary consumer record information.

PRIMHD includes the date, location and provider for all contact episodes. It also includes some information on the type of service provided. Records in PRIMHD can relate to a wide range of service types[1] including face-to-face treatment contacts, assessments, inpatient and residential bednights, family support contacts where the client may or may not be present, phone calls, text messages and letters. Many data users are interested in distinguishing ‘face to face’ or ‘treatment’ service contacts from assessments, phone calls and other types of contacts that are recorded in PRIMHD. This is not straightforward and relies on a combination of activity type and activity setting codes. The code examples accompanying this guide demonstrate one way to define ‘face to face’ contacts.


Table 1. IDI datasets containing mental health information

DatasetDescription of contentsMental health information availableTime period covered
PRIMHD / MHINCPublically funded service uses for specialist mental health and addiction services in NZInformation about service use (eg date, service type, team, provider)PRIMHD July 2008-
MHINC 2000-June 2008
Diagnosis informationDiagnosis 2000-
Legal status information for treatment provided under relevant actsLegal status July 2008-
Supplementary consumer recordsSupplementary consumer records 2016-
Public hospital discharges (NMDS)Discharges from publically funded hospital admissionsAdmissions to mental health inpatient facilities (also recorded in PRIMHD)1998-
Mental health and addiction diagnoses (ICD-9 / ICD-10) may be recorded against admissions
Pharmaceutical CollectionCommunity dispensings of publicly funded medications in New ZealandDate, cost, detailed information about type of medication dispensed2005-
(data are most reliable from 2007 onwards)
MortalityUnderlying cause of death for all deaths in NZDate of death (month and year), ICD codes for cause of death1998-
(latest records delayed by 2 to 3 years)
NNPACPublically funded medical, surgical and ED outpatient visitsDate of attendance, type of service provided (purchase unit)2007-
ACCInjury claimsFlag for self-inflicted injury1994-
SOCRATESNeeds assessments for disability support servicesDiagnostic dataset contains some mental health diagnoses2003-
(data are most reliable from 2010 onwards)
MSD BenefitsAdministration of social welfare benefitsIncapacity codes include some mental health conditions1992-
Auckland City MissionUse of Auckland City Mission ServicesUse of detoxification and crisis services, requests to see mental health nurse, drug and alcohol useOne-off extract as at 30 April 2016
Survey of Family, Income and Employment (SoFIE)Panel survey of work, family, household and economic circumstancesHealth module in waves 3, 5 and 7 contained Kessler-10 (K-10) scores and questions about alcohol use8 waves spanning October 2002 to September 2010
General Social SurveyNationally representative survey of wellbeingSF-12 (mental health, mental distress and functioning)2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016
Te Kupenga.Post-censal survey of Maori wellbeingMental health, life satisfaction, spirituality, social connectedness2013

Limitations and Gaps

The majority of IDI mental health and addiction data sources record service use. Using these data sources it is possible to reliably identify individuals who are using publicly funded specialist mental health and addiction services and individuals who die by suicide. This cohort is likely to over-represent people who have the most severe and disruptive illnesses; the majority of formal mental health care, especially for mild to moderate problems, occurs in a primary care setting and this information is not available in the IDI. In addition, it is possible to identify individuals who have received mental health pharmaceuticals, but care should be taken with this approach as many pharmaceuticals have uses that are unrelated to mental health and there is a risk of over-counting the mental health service use population. Combining those using secondary specialist services with those prescribed medications will produce a very heterogeneous cohort.

Private (patient funded) treatment such as visits to psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, and counsellors, is not captured in the IDI. There are also a range of NGOs that provide mental health care that is not funded from the mental health budget; this data is not included in PRIMHD and is not available in the IDI.

Not all DHBs report mental health treatment for people aged over 65 to PRIMHD and therefore coverage for this age group is incomplete. Coverage is more complete for Northern and Midland DHB regions.

Further information

This guide is a condensed version of ‘Guide to Mental Health and Addiction Data in IDI’, available on the VHIN website. This document contains a more detailed description of the data sources and their limitations, along with links to data dictionaries and other documents containing additional information.

The code examples accompanying this guide provide examples of of identifying suicides, self-harm hospitilisations, schizophrenia diagnoses, and mental health service use events including inpatient bednights, forensic bednights, rehab/residential/respite bednights, and community clinical and support contacts.

New users of mental health data in IDI are strongly encouraged to read the full version of the guide, the relevant data dictionaries and to seek advice from MoH, mental health researchers or clinicians before starting their work.


The IDI contains a range of information about mental health and addiction data. Most of this information is mental health service use data, especially specialist mental health service use that captures the 4% of people with the most severe mental health problems. Therefore, we are likely to miss individuals with less severe problems and those who do not seek treatment. Pharmaceutical dispensing data can be used to identify individuals who are being treated in primary care, but many mental health pharmaceuticals have other (non-mental health) uses and there is a risk of over-counting when using this method.


Cunningham, A. Kvalsvig, D. Peterson, S. Kuehl, S. Gibb, S. McKenzie, L. Thornley, S. Every-Palmer. (2018) Stocktake Report for the Mental Health and Addiction Inquiry. Available from

Kohn R et al. The treatment gap in mental health care. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2004, 82:858–866.

Oakley Browne MA, Wells JE and Scott KM. (2006) Te Rau Hinengaro: The New Zealand Mental Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health.


Original 06/09/19, by Sheree Gibb, Ruth Cunningham, Kendra Telfer