Researchers are calling for higher prioritisation of mental health care for Indigenous Australians, after a new study showed anxiety and mood disorders are up to 3.3 times more prevalent among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples compared to the general Australian adult population.

Ms Imogen Page, from the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, undertook the study to address the lack of data about the prevalence of mental disorders in Indigenous populations – a factor that is a barrier to improving mental health service planning and provision of high-quality care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Ms Page, who is also completing her PhD at The University of Queensland’s School of Public Health, said the study analysed the four most recent Australian Indigenous and corresponding general population surveys to understand prevalence.

“Using a series of meta-analyses, we found that Indigenous Australians are estimated to have between 1.6 and 3.3 times the national prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders,” Ms Page said.

“We also found that this prevalence ratio did not vary across age group or survey year.”

Now that the higher prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders in Indigenous populations is understood, Ms Page said government agencies and service planners should work to reduce the burden of disease and close the health gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians.

“Now that we have this new data to estimate the level of mental health need – we need to input it into service planning models and improve service provision,” Ms Page said.

“This should include a focus on Indigenous specific models of mental health care, such as those delivered through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, as these have demonstrated effectiveness at improving mental health outcomes.

“Ultimately, to combat the current landscape of inequitable mental health in Australia, priority should be given to populations in need, such as Indigenous Australians.

“Having a clear idea of the current level of need for mental health services will allow planners to make informed decisions to ensure adequate services are available.”

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences in June 2022.

Media contact: Ms Imogen Page,


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