Policy solutions to improve the mental health of Australians with disability

Project Details

Australians with disability have poorer mental health outcomes compared to Australians without disability. Our research has demonstrated that these inequalities are shaped by the social determinants of health. People with disability, for example, are more likely to live in poverty, have higher rates of unemployment and poorer housing: all of which contribute to poorer mental health outcomes. Policy solutions addressing the underlying social determinants of poorer mental health outcomes for people with disability are urgently needed.

This project brings together researchers, people with disability and government to co-design approaches to better understand interactions between social determinants, policy and mental health pathways, paving the way to develop effective solutions.


  • Dr Zoe Aitken
  • Dr Alexandra Devine
  • Professor Anne Kavanagh
  • Professor Helen Dickinson
  • Professor Sandra Eades
  • Associate Professor Tania King
  • Dr Glenda Bishop
  • Dr Marissa Shields
  • Dr Humaira Maheen
  • Dr Yamna Taouk
  • Dr Kate Mason
  • Dr George Disney
  • Dr Yi Yang
  • Marie Huska


  • Department of Social Services
  • People with Disability Australia
  • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
  • Deaf Indigenous Community Consultancy


Million Minds Mental Health Research, Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund

Research Publications

Shields, M., Spittal, M. J., Aitken, Z., Dimov, S., Kavanagh, A., & King, T. L. (2023). Does employment status mediate the association between disability status and mental health among young adults? Evidence from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. Occupational and Environmental Medicine80(9), 498-505. https://oem.bmj.com/content/oemed/80/9/498.full.pdf

Aitken, Z., Simpson, J. A., Bentley, R., Milner, A., LaMontagne, A. D., & Kavanagh, A. M. (2020). Does the effect of disability acquisition on mental health differ by employment characteristics? A longitudinal fixed-effects analysis. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology55, 1031-1039. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-019-01783-x

Aitken, Z., Simpson, J. A., Gurrin, L., Bentley, R., & Kavanagh, A. M. (2018). Do material, psychosocial and behavioural factors mediate the relationship between disability acquisition and mental health? A sequential causal mediation analysis. International journal of epidemiology47(3), 829-840. https://doi.org/10.1093/ije/dyx277

Aitken, Z., Krnjacki, L., Kavanagh, A. M., LaMontagne, A. D., & Milner, A. (2017). Does social support modify the effect of disability acquisition on mental health? A longitudinal study of Australian adults. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology52, 1247-1255. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-017-1418-5 and University of Melbourne repository

Mithen, J., Aitken, Z., Ziersch, A., & Kavanagh, A. M. (2015). Inequalities in social capital and health between people with and without disabilities. Social Science & Medicine126, 26-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.12.009

Research Group

School Research Themes

Prevention and management of non-communicable diseases (including cancer), and promotion of mental health, 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

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