Zoe Aitken wins Top Publication Award

Zoe Aitken wins the Centre for Health Equity Award for Best PhD Publication 2018.



Zoe's paper was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the highest ranked epidemiology journal (impact factor 8.3) and used innovative causal mediation analysis techniques to better understand the causes of the mental health inequalities experienced by people with disabilities. This study is a significant contribution to the field as it addresses this important gap in the literature. A number of studies have suggested that disability acquisition leads to deterioration of people’s mental health, however there is little evidence about the mechanistic pathways linking disability and mental health and the role of socioeconomic factors in explaining the association. A better understanding of these mechanisms may highlight potential modifiable targets for policy interventions to mitigate the adverse effects of disability on people’s mental health. With one in five Australians currently reporting a disability, this is a substantially public health problem.

Zoe found that effect of disability acquisition on mental health operates predominantly through material factors, such as employment and income. These novel findings have important policy implications, highlighting the need for better social protection, including income support and employment and education opportunities, to eliminate the inequalities in socioeconomic characteristics experienced by people with disabilities. This research is particularly timely given the implementation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In this context, our findings represent a pivotal opportunity to develop policy and practice strategies to improve the mental health of people with disabilities based on robust evidence about modifiable risk factors.

Congratulations Zoe!

Zoe is a PhD Candidate in the Disability and Health Unit and a Research Fellow in the Centre of Research Excellence in Disability and Health (CRE-DH).  You can view or download the publication here: Aitken Z, Simpson JA, Gurrin L, Bentley R, Kavanagh AM (2018) Do material, psychosocial and behavioural factors mediate the relationship between disability acquisition and mental health? A sequential causal mediation analysis. International Journal of Epidemiology, 47(3): 829‐840.

More Information

Zoe Aitken

che-enquiry@unimelb.edu.au