Psychological distress of rural parents: Family influence and the role of isolation

Authors


Denika J. Novello, Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, University of Newcastle, Bloomfield Hospital, Forest Road, Orange, New South Wales, 2800, Australia. Email: denika.novello@gwahs.health.nsw.gov.au

Abstract

Objective: Research regarding psychological distress has often underestimated the importance of contextual social factors. This research aims to investigate patterns of psychological distress within the family system (parent dyads) across rural and remote communities and the influence of remoteness on such distress.

Design: Self-report survey data from the Australian Rural Mental Health Study was used to examine the distress levels of cohabitating parental figures in rural and remote Australia.

Setting: The survey was conducted across rural and remote communities within New South Wales.

Participants: The sample consisted of 129 adult couples (mean age = 42.66 years, SD = 8.11), 43 from Inner Regional areas, 48 from Outer Regional areas, 24 from Remote areas and 14 from Very Remote areas.

Main outcome measure: Distress levels (Kessler-10).

Results: A significant association was detected between the levels of psychological distress among parents within a household. The strength of this relationship increased with increasing remoteness of residence.

Conclusions: Identifying the influence of spousal factors on mental health in rural and remote areas allows health services in such regions to be aware of the needs of rural couples and families. These results support the need to consider partner/spouse mental health in clinical assessment and support the importance of household factors especially in remote communities.

Ancillary