Research priorities in mental health


Christensen, H., Batterham, P. J., Griffiths, K. M., Gosling, J., & Hehir, K. K. (2013). Research priorities in mental health. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 47(4), 355-362. doi:


Over the last decade, Australia has seen an increase in investment in mental health services, primarily through the funding of headspace and Better Access to Mental Health Outcomes programs. Concurrently there has been a policy focus on prevention and early intervention, suicide reduction and ‘hard-to-target’ groups such as Indigenous groups. It is not clear, however, whether research funding targeting health services or prevention or promotion has been prioritized, or whether funding priorities in general have shifted over the last decade. A total of 1008 Australian-authored research publications and 126 competitive research grants in 2008 were coded in terms of their target of research, research goal setting and target group. These characteristics were compared with the research priorities of 570 stakeholders, burden of disease estimates and similar data collected 10 years earlier. The proportion of research funding for affective disorders, dementia and psychosis has increased, but not for anxiety disorders or suicide. Funding for childhood disorders has decreased. Funding for prevention and promotion is low and decreasing. With respect to research publications, substance abuse was associated with the most publications, followed by affective disorders, anxiety disorders and psychosis. When publications and funding are compared to stakeholder priorities and the burden of disease, the areas of suicide and self-harm, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, childhood conditions and dementia are all insufficiently funded. Despite mental health policy reforms through the last decade, there has been little change in the focus of research funding or publication output. There is modest evidence for a shift in support towards affective disorders as a major focus for research. However, the remaining gaps were very similar to those identified 10 years earlier showing that suicide, personality disorders and anxiety disorders are under-researched.

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