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Longitudinal Study: HILDA
Title: Trends in the prevalence of psychological distress in Australia: evidence from the HILDA Survey
Authors: Watson, Nicole 
Wooden, Mark 
Butterworth, Peter 
Publication Date: Nov-2020
Pages: 1-9
Abstract: Background: While there is discussion of increasing rates of mental disorders, epidemiological research finds little evidence of change over time. This research generally compares cross-sectional surveys conducted at different times. Declining response rates to representative surveys may mask increases in mental disorders and psychological distress. Methods: Analysis of data from two large nationally representative surveys: repeated cross-sectional data from the Australian National Health Survey (NHS) series (2001–2017), and longitudinal data (2007–2017) from the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. Data from each source was used to generate weighted national estimates of the prevalence of very high psychological distress using the Kessler Psychological Distress scale (K10). Results: Estimates of the prevalence of very high psychological distress from the NHS were stable between 2001 and 2014, with a modest increase in 2017. In contrast, the HILDA Survey data demonstrated an increasing trend over time, with the prevalence of very high distress rising from 4.8% in 2007 to 7.4% in 2017. This increase was present for both men and women, and was evident for younger and middle aged adults but not those aged 65 years or older. Sensitivity analyses showed that this increase was notable in the upper end of the K10 distribution. Conclusions: Using household panel data breaks the nexus between declining survey participation rates and time, and suggests the prevalence of very high psychological distress is increasing. The study identifies potential challenges in estimating trends in population mental health using repeated cross-sectional survey data.
DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2020.595696
Research collection: Journal Articles
Appears in Collections:Journal Articles

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