Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 46, Issue 12, pp 1331–1342 | Cite as

Determinants of mental health and well-being within rural and remote communities

  • Brian J. Kelly
  • Terry J. Lewin
  • Helen J. Stain
  • Clare Coleman
  • Michael Fitzgerald
  • David Perkins
  • Vaughan J. Carr
  • Lyn Fragar
  • Jeffrey Fuller
  • David Lyle
  • John R. Beard
Original Paper



The individual and contextual factors influencing current mental health and well-being within rural communities are poorly understood.


A stratified random sample of adults was drawn from non-metropolitan regions of NSW, Australia. One-quarter (27.7%) of the 2,639 respondents were from remote/very remote regions. An aggregate measure of current well-being was derived from levels of distress and related impairment (Kessler-10 LM), self-reported overall physical and mental health, functioning, satisfaction with relationships, and satisfaction with life. Multivariate methods investigated the contributions to current well-being of demographic/dispositional factors, recent events and social support, individual exposure to rural adversity, and district/neighbourhood level characteristics.


Respondents from very remote regions tended to be younger and have lower education. Univariate associations were detected between well being and exposure to rural adversity (greater drought-related worry, lower perceived service and support availability, greater number of years living in the current district). Multivariate analysis (n = 2,462) accounted for 41% of the variance in well-being scores. The major contributing variables were dispositional factors (trait neuroticism, marital status), recent adverse events and indices of social support. However, no additional effects were detected for district-level variables (drought severity, regional socioeconomic categorisation, population change). Similar associations were detected using the K-10 alone as the outcome measure.


The chief determinants of current well being were those reflecting individual level attributes and perceptions, rather than district-level rural characteristics. This has implications for strategies to promote well being within rural communities through enhancing community connectedness and combating social isolation in the face of major adversities such as drought.


Determinants Epidemiology Mental disorders Rural Well-being 



The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (Project Grant #401241) and also supported by a Research Infrastructure Capacity Building Grant from NSW Department of Health to the Australian Rural Health Research Collaboration. We wish to acknowledge the support of Area Directors of Mental Health Services during the course of this phase of the study: Dr Russell Roberts, Richard Buss, Judy Kennedy, Dinesh Arya, and particularly acknowledge the research site coordinators in each site: Jan Sidford, John Ogle (Broken Hill), Trim Munro, Amy Strachan (Moree), Louise Holdsworth, Kath O’Driscoll (Lismore), Cheryl Bennett, Jannelle Bowler (Orange), along with Fleur Hourihan, Dr. Gina Sartore, Denika Novello and the team of CIDI interviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian J. Kelly
    • 1
    • 2
  • Terry J. Lewin
    • 1
  • Helen J. Stain
    • 2
  • Clare Coleman
    • 2
  • Michael Fitzgerald
    • 3
  • David Perkins
    • 4
  • Vaughan J. Carr
    • 5
    • 6
  • Lyn Fragar
    • 7
  • Jeffrey Fuller
    • 8
  • David Lyle
    • 4
  • John R. Beard
    • 8
  1. 1.Centre for Brain and Mental Health ResearchUniversity of Newcastle and Hunter New England HealthNewcastleAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Rural and Remote Mental HealthUniversity of NewcastleOrangeAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Epidemiology and BiostatisticsUniversity of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  4. 4.Department of Rural HealthUniversity of SydneyBroken HillAustralia
  5. 5.School of PsychiatryUniversity of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  6. 6.Schizophrenia Research InstituteSydneyAustralia
  7. 7.Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and SafetyUniversity of SydneyMoreeAustralia
  8. 8.Northern Rivers Department of Rural HealthUniversity of Sydney and School of Health and Human Sciences, Southern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia

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