The use of a surveillance system to measure changes in mental health in Australian adults during the global financial crisis

Int J Public Health. 2011 Aug;56(4):367-72. doi: 10.1007/s00038-010-0200-1. Epub 2010 Oct 21.


Objective: This study aimed to describe trends in a range of mental health indicators in South Australia where a surveillance system has been in operation since July 2002 and assess the impact of the global financial crisis (GFC).

Methods: Data were collected using a risk factor surveillance system. Participants, aged 16 years and above, were asked about doctor-diagnosed anxiety, stress or depression, suicidal ideation, psychological distress (PD), demographic and socioeconomic factors using Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI).

Results: Overall, there was a decreasing trend in the prevalence of PD between 2002 and 2009. Stress has decreased since 2004 although anxiety has increased. Comparing 2008 or 2009 (the economic crisis period) with 2005 or 2007, there was significant increase in anxiety for part-time workers but a decrease for full-time workers. There were significant differences for stress by various demographic variables.

Conclusion: The overall prevalence of mental health conditions has not increased during the GFC. Some subgroups in the population have been disproportionately impacted by changes in mental health status. The use of a surveillance system enables rapid and specifically targeted public health and policy responses to socioeconomic and environmental stressors, and the evaluation of outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Economic Recession*
  • Health Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Mental Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • South Australia / epidemiology
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Young Adult