Psychological distress among migrant groups in Australia: results from the 2015 National Health Survey

  • Bianca BrijnathEmail author
  • Josefine Antoniades
  • Jeromey Temple
Original Paper



To understand the relationship between migration and psychological distress, we (a) calculated the prevalence of psychological distress in specific migrant groups, and (b) examined the association between specific birth groups and psychological distress, while controlling for confounding variables to understand vulnerabilities across migrant groups.


The prevalence of psychological distress, disaggregated by birthplace, was calculated using data from the Australian 2015 National Health Survey, which measures psychological distress via the Kessler Screening Scale for Psychological Distress (K10). Multivariable logistic regression models, with adjustments for complex survey design, were fitted to examine the association between country of birth and psychological distress once extensive controls for demographic, and socioeconomics factors were included.


14,466 individuals ≥ 18 years completed the K10. Migrants from Italy (20.7%), Greece (20.4%), Southern and Eastern European (18.2%), and North African and Middle Eastern (21.9%) countries had higher prevalence estimates of distress compared to Australian born (12.4%) or those born in the United Kingdom (UK) (9.5%)—the largest migrant group in Australia. After adjusting for demographics, SES factors, duration in Australia, a birthplace in Italy (OR = 2.79 95% CI 1.4, 5.7), Greece (OR = 2.46 95% CI 1.1, 5.5), India (OR = 2.28 95% CI 1.3, 3.9), Southern and Eastern Europe (excluding Greece and Italy) (OR = 2.43 95% CI 1.5, 3.9), North Africa and the Middle East (OR = 3.39 95% CI 1.9, 6.2) was associated with increased odds of distress relative to those born in the UK.


Illuminating variability in prevalence of psychological distress across migrant communities, highlights vulnerabilities in particular migrant groups, which have not previously been described. Identifying such communities can aid mental health policy-makers and service providers provide targeted culturally appropriate care.


Migrants Psychological distress Socio-economic factors 



The Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence in Ageing Research funds JT [CE1101029]. This research project received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare to have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Ageing Research Institute LtdRoyal Melbourne HospitalMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.The School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech PathologyCurtin UniversityPerthAustralia
  3. 3.Department of General PracticeMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.Melbourne School of Population and Global HealthUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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