• Open Access

Psychological distress is associated with a range of high-priority health conditions affecting working Australians


Correspondence to:
Libby Holden, School of Medicine, Griffith University, University Drive, Meadowbrook, QLD 4131. Fax: (07) 3382 1338; e-mail: l.holden@griffith.edu.au


Background: Psychological distress is growing in prevalence in Australia. Comorbid psychological distress and/or depressive symptoms are often associated with poorer health, higher healthcare utilisation and decreased adherence to medical treatments.

Methods: The Australian Work Outcomes Research Cost-benefit (WORC) study cross-sectional screening dataset was used to explore the association between psychological distress and a range of health conditions in a sample of approximately 78,000 working Australians. The study uses the World Health Organization Health and Productivity Questionnaire (HPQ), to identify self-reported health status. Within the HPQ is the Kessler 6 (K6), a six-item scale of psychological distress which strongly discriminates between those with and without a mental disorder. Potential confounders of age, sex, marital status, number of children, education level and annual income were included in multivariate logistic regression models.

Results: Psychological distress was significantly associated with all investigated health conditions in both crude and adjusted estimates. The conditions with the strongest adjusted association were, in order from highest: drug and alcohol problems, fatigue, migraine, CVD, COPD, injury and obesity.

Conclusions: Psychological distress is strongly associated with all 14 health conditions or risk factors investigated in this study. Comorbid psychological distress is a growing public health issue affecting Australian workers.