Weird Skin Stuff

July 2009


Anxiety and depression in Chinese patients attending an Australian GP clinic

Volume 38, No.7, July 2009 Pages 552-555

George Wen-Gin Tang

Sarah M Dennis

Elizabeth Comino

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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