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Professor Tony Jorm
Orygen Youth Mental Health /
University of Melbourne Youth Mental Health Research Centre
T: 9342 3747
E: ajorm@unimelb.edu.au

Significant inequality exists in the mental health of Indigenous Australians compared with non-Indigenous Australians, and it starts from an early age, according to new analysis of data by leading youth mental health experts.

In an article published in a recent edition of the Medical Journal of Australia Professor Anthony Jorm from the University of Melbourne’s Youth Mental Health Research Centre, based at Orygen, and colleagues mined existing community health surveys from 2000 onward to establish an accurate picture of the state of Indigenous mental health.
 
“The surveys we reviewed consistently showed a higher prevalence of psychological distress (anxiety and depression symptoms) in Indigenous adults, with rates between 50 per cent and three times higher than for non-Indigenous adults,” the researchers said.
 
“This indicates the issue needs to be a priority for research, preventive action and health services.
 
“It is well known that rates of disease and injury are higher among Indigenous Australians than in the general Australian population, but knowledge of Indigenous Australians’ mental health has been heretofore incomplete,” Professor Jorm said.
 
Professor Jorm said that people experiencing psychological distress could have greater difficulty attaining their life goals, such as working or studying, and that such distress frequently produced negative interactions with family and social relationships.
 
“People who have high psychological distress are likely to try to reduce it using things like alcohol, tobacco and other drugs such as cannabis, which also means they are less able to function well in life,” he said.
 
Studies of parent-reported problems in children and adolescents also showed a higher prevalence of behaviour problems, according to the authors.
 
The Orygen Youth Health Research Centre at the University of Melbourne is Australia’s largest and a continually expanding youth mental health research centre, internationally recognised as a world leader in youth mental health research.