George Wen-Gin Tang
Sarah M Dennis
Nicholas A Zwar
Incidence of depression among Chinese people living in traditional
Asian regions is low. Recent Chinese immigrants to Australia may be
at greater risk of depression and anxiety because of issues related to
integration into Australian society. General practitioners are often the
first point of contact for people with anxiety and depression. Patients
from a Chinese background may be reluctant to discuss their mental
health problems with their GP.
A cross sectional survey was undertaken of Chinese patients 18
years of age and over attending a general practice in southwestern
Sydney (New South Wales) during July 2005. Patients were asked to
complete the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) and Somatic
and Psychological Health Report (SPHERE) depression screening
questionnaires, along with a demographic questionnaire.
All questionnaires were available in English or Chinese.
A total of 161 patients completed the questionnaires. Fifty-five percent
(83) of patients had a K10 score that indicated medium or high risk, and
44% (71) had a high SPHERE score (PSYCH-6 and/or SOMA-6). There
was an association between increased risk of depression or anxiety
and reduced occupational status but not social isolation.
Half the Chinese patients presenting at this general practice were
at high risk of psychological distress (as measured by standard
screening instruments). The proportion of patients in this study at
risk of psychological distress on screening is more than would be
expected in the general Australian population. Though limited by
a small sample size and a single general practice location, these
findings are of concern and should direct further research.
Anxiety, depression and somatoform disorders account for 7.4% of all problems seen in general practice in Australia.1 The Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing reported a 12 month prevalence of major depression among adults of 5.8%; for anxiety disorder, it was 9.7%.2 The New South Wales Health Survey reported a prevalence of high level psychological distress of 10.7%.3
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