Access to Australian mental health care by people from non-English-speaking backgrounds

J. Pirkis, Philip M Burgess, G. Meadows, D. Dunt

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17 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This study aimed to examine access to mental health care for people from non-English-speaking backgrounds relative to that of people from English-speaking backgrounds, in the context of the mental health status of both groups; and to consider whether, if they perceive that they have needs for care, these needs are met. Method: The study used data from the population-based Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, conducted in 1997. Results: People from non-English-speaking backgrounds and English-speaking backgrounds were equally likely to experience anxiety disorders and affective disorders, but the former were less likely to experience substance-use disorders and any mental disorder. When those with each disorder type were considered alone, people from non-English-speaking backgrounds and English-speaking backgrounds were equally likely to use services for mental health problems. When those with perceived needs for care were considered in isolation, there was no difference between birthplace groups in terms of their likelihood of reporting that their needs were fully met. Conclusions: The study had several limitations (i.e. lack of detail on specific ethnic groups and exclusion of potential respondents who could not speak English), which mean that these findings should be interpreted with caution. There is a need to build on this population-based work, by oversampling people from particular non-English speaking communities and ensuring that those who do not speak English are included in population samples. Such work will further clarify the relative ability of people from non-English-speaking backgrounds to access services, and the extent to which their needs are met.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-182
Number of pages9
JournalAustralian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Access
  • Health status
  • Non-English-speaking background
  • Service utilization
  • Unmet need

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