Disability, social mobility and wellbeing of people with disabilities

Project Details

The research aims to:

  1. Develop our understanding of:
  2. how the social and economic conditions of people living with disabilities differs from those without disabilities, focusing on housing, employment and education circumstances

    how the social and economic circumstances of Australians living with disabilities influences their mental health

  3. Identify gaps in our knowledge about the ways in which gender and socio-economic disadvantage shape the mental health of people with disabilities
  4. Develop an evidence base to inform cross-policy policy development and service delivery in relation to housing, employment, education and mental health for people with disabilities

Project summary

The twenty percent of Australians reporting a disability are more likely to live in disadvantaged circumstances such as inadequate housing; being unemployed; and lower levels of education all of which may contribute to poor mental health. Yet there has not been research on the mental health of people with disabilities. This means that disability services and advocacy groups, which deal daily with the lived experiences of disadvantage and poor mental health for people with disabilities, do not have evidence to support policy and service sector reform.

This project brings together two research fields: health inequities and disability research, to develop an evidence-base regarding how socio-economic disadvantage (with a focus on housing, employment and education) and gender shape the mental health of people with disabilities. Quantitative analyses of existing datasets and qualitative interviews with people with disabilities will be used to develop the evidence base.

This project will provide this critical evidence as well as build research capacity in disability-related research and lead to better monitoring of disability-related health inequities. The findings will inform the policy development, service delivery and future research for people with disabilities.


Professor Anne Kavanagh
Professor Eric Emerson, University of Sydney and Lancaster University
Professor Anthony LaMontagne, Deakin University
Professor Tony Blakely
Dr Allison Milner
Ms Zoe Aitken
Ms Lauren Krnjacki


Australin Research Council Discovery Grant

Research Publications

Aitken Z, Simpson JA, Bentley R, Kavanagh AM. Disability acquisition and mental health: and analysis of excess mental health disparities according to intersecting demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. BMJ Open.

Aitken Z, Krnjacki L, Kavanagh AM, LaMontagne AD, Milner AM. Does social support modify the effect of disability acquisition on mental health? A longitudinal study of Australian adults. Soc Psych Psych Epi. 2017, 1-9.

Aitken Z, Baker E, Badland H, Mason K, Bentley R, Beer A, Kavanagh AM. Precariously placed: Housing affordability, quality and satisfaction of Australians with disabilities. Disability and Society.

Karahalios A, Pega F, Aitken Z, Milner A, Simpson JA, Kavanagh AM. The cumulative effect of living with disability on mental health in working-age Australians: an analysis using marginal structural models. IJE.

Research Group

Gender and Women's Health

School Research Themes

Disparities, disadvantage and effective health care

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Centre for Health Equity

Unit / Centre

Gender and Women's Health