45 and Up Study: a rich source of mental health data for researchers

Since 2005, the 45 and Up Study has collected detailed surveys on the mental health and wellbeing of Australians, including recent insights into how people have coped with the pandemic. This valuable data is now available for researchers.

The 45 and Up Study is Australia’s largest ongoing study of health and ageing, with over 250,000 NSW participants completing health surveys regularly to track their health, wellbeing and lifestyle over time.

One area of particular research interest in recent years has been mental health, and the 45 and Up Study has responded by including comprehensive new mental health questions into participant surveys.

Adapting to research needs

The new questions have been designed to capture emerging issues about the impact of the pandemic such as resilience, loneliness, social isolation, access to mental health care and other information gaps identified by researchers and policymakers. Some of the self-reported mental health measures captured in 45 and Up Surveys now include:

  • Overall health/ quality of life
  • De Jong Loneliness scale
  • Kessler psychological distress
  • Prospective Resilience Index
  • Duke Social Support Index
  • Uncertainty about the future
  • Impact of COVID pandemic on mental health
  • Access to mental health care and missed care
  • Exposure to other major life events- violence and loss
Sax Institute Director, Research Assets, Dr Kerrin Bleicher says the Study’s 15 years of mental health data allows researchers to dig deeper into the factors that impact older Australians’ mental health.

Sax Institute Director, Research Assets, Dr Kerrin Bleicher says this, along with the Study’s 15 years of mental health data, will allow researchers to dig deeper into the factors that impact older Australians’ mental health.

“This is unprecedented mental health data that can really tell a story about the nation’s changing mental health, particularly during disruptive community experiences such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Dr Bleicher.

“We hope that researchers can make the most of our 15 years of longitudinal data to understand how mental health changes over time, and what we can all do to help future generations of Australians live longer, healthier lives.”

Mental health data on offer

Since 2005, three major surveys have gone out to Study participants. The third survey was completed in 2020, and there have been additional mental health questions included in additional large sub-studies of cohort participants.

Four COVID Insights surveys have also been conducted from July 2020 to December 2021, providing detailed insights into the mental health of older Australians throughout the ongoing pandemic.

Crucially, the 45 and Up Study’s survey data can also be linked to regularly collected health data such as Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), hospitalisations, Ambulatory Mental Health data, the Mental Health Outcomes and Assessment Tools (MHOAT) data and Cause of Death mortality data – important linkages that can enhance mental health research.

To date, over 40 research papers have used mental health data from the Study to explore a broad range of mental health issues in older people, including the impact of green space on our wellbeing, loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic, plus a groundbreaking study exploring psychological distress among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

How to use the 45 and Up Study for research

This world-class health asset is ready and available to approved Australia’s researchers. If you’re interested in using the 45 and Up Study, you can read more about the available data here, or email us on 45andUp.research@saxinstitute.org.au

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