Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Social, Emotional and Physical Wellbeing

Currently, on all socioeconomic, health and welfare indicators, Aboriginal people are the most disadvantaged population group in Australia. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report (2005) on the health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples suggest that, overall, Aboriginal people are more likely to be unemployed; have lower household incomes; experience poorer housing with significant problems with overcrowding, poor sanitation and water supply; have lower levels of school attendance and completion to high school, with lower numeracy and literacy levels; are more likely to be incarcerated or have children removed under care and protection orders; and will experience more major life stress events than the non-Indigenous population.

The report also found significant health issues in comparison with the nonIndigenous population. For Indigenous peoples in Australia:

•Most major illnesses and chronic diseases are overrepresented, with agespecific death rates being higher, especially in the young and middle adult groups with 75% of male and 65% of female deaths before the age of 65 years.

•Infants continue to have lower birth weights and higher mortality rates and maternal mortality rates are also higher.

•Life expectancy continues to be reported as 17–20 years less.

•When compared to other Indigenous groups in New Zealand and Canada, Australian Aboriginal peoples are by far the most disadvantaged with the highest levels of morbidity and mortality and the greatest level of health inequities.

There are also a number of increased health risk factors present in the Aboriginal community, including smoking, hazardous drinking, drug use, obesity, poor nutrition and multiple life events. Although Indigenous people are less likely to consume alcohol compared to the non-Indigenous population, those who do are more likely to drink hazardously. The high rates of smoking among pregnant Indigenous women contribute to the low birthweights in infants (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2005). Hence the risk for early onset of chronic disease and mental health problems starts early in life and is compounded throughout development.

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