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4817.0.55.001 - Information Paper: Use of the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale in ABS Health Surveys, Australia, 2007-08  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/04/2012   
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  • Glossary

Glossary Adjusting for age Age standardisation is used in this publication to remove the effects of age when comparing populations with different age structures. For example, when looking at the labour force status of people in disadvantaged areas, it can be seen that more people in these areas are not in the labour force (compared with more advantaged areas). However, the age distribution of people in disadvantaged areas is skewed towards the higher age groups (that is, older people are more likely to live in these areas than younger people), so this higher number could be due to the fact that there are more older people in the disadvantaged areas, as there are less older people in the work force. Age standardising removes age from the picture so it can be seen whether there is a correlation between disadvantage and labour force status independent of age.

The age composition of the 2001 estimated resident population of Australia is used as the benchmarking population.

Affective Disorders are disorders that involve mood disturbance. Examples include bipolar affective disorder, depressive episode and dysthymia.

Anxiety Disorders involve feelings of tension, distress or nervousness. Examples include panic disorder, social phobia, agoraphobia, generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Australian Assessment of Quality of Life is an instrument used to measure the burden of disease. Questions measure illness, independence, social relationships, physical senses, and psychological wellbeing.

The Australian Mental Health Outcomes and Casemix Collection K-10+ measure adds four questions to the K10 module which rate degree of disability. These additional questions do not contribute to the K10 score.

COAG - Council of Australian Governments

Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI) - a comprehensive modular interview which can be used to assess lifetime and 12-month prevalence of selected mental disorders through the measurement of symptoms and their impact on day-to-day activities. For more information, see [link]

CRUfAD - Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression

Depression A mood state characterised by a sense of inadequacy, a feeling of despondency, a decrease in activity or reactivity, pessimism, sadness and related symptoms. Depending upon the number and severity of the symptoms, a depressive episode may be specified as mild, moderate or severe.

DSM-IV - Diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorders (fourth edition). The DSM-IV is a handbook for mental health professionals that lists different categories of mental disorders and the criteria for diagnosing them. The DSM-IV focuses on clinical, research and educational purposes, supported by an extensive empirical foundation.

GPcare is a website that was developed to meet the needs of general practitioners who were enrolling in the Better Outcomes in Mental Health Initiative of the Australian Government. It is a way to provide a common framework for the work of professional groups as they treat people with the common mental disorders.

Healthy Mind Day was held on 11 April 2002 to raise awareness of depression and anxiety in NSW, and was conducted by the Mental Health Association of NSW in conjunction with the Pharmacy Guild of Australia (NSW Branch).

Hierarchy rules In the CIDI, the classification system for some of the mental disorders contains diagnostic exclusion rules so that a person, despite having symptoms that meet diagnostic assessment criteria, will not meet criteria for particular disorders because the symptoms are believed to be accounted for by the presence of another disorder. In these cases, one disorder takes precedence over another. These exclusion, or ‘hierarchy’ rules are built into the diagnostic algorithms. The ‘with hierarchy’ version of a diagnosis will therefore exclude cases where symptoms have been established for another disorder for the same time period.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey (HILDA) is funded by the Department of Families and Housing, Community Services, Indigenous Affairs and conducted by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne. It collects information about economic and subjective well-being, labour market dynamics and family dynamics.

K5 A five item measure of psychological distress used by the ABS in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population surveys.

K6 A 6 question short form of the K10.

K10 The Kessler 10 question psychological distress scale.

Mental disorder According to the ICD-10 (International Classification of Disease - 10th revision) classification of mental and behavioural disorders, a disorder implies 'the existence of a clinically recognisable set of symptoms or behaviour associated in most cases with distress and with interference with personal function (WHO 1992, p 5). Most diagnoses require criteria relating to severity and duration to be met.

The National Drug Strategy Household survey is funded by the Department of Health and Ageing and conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. It collects information on smoking, alcohol and drug use of Australians aged 14 years and over.

The National Prisoner Health Census is conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. K10 results are published in The health of Australia’s prisoners, 2009 and 2010.

Prevalence The total number of cases of a disease in a given population at a specific time.

Psychosis A generic psychiatric term for a mental state often associated with the onset of psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, and perceptual disturbances, and by the severe disruption of ordinary behaviour.

Sensitivity is a measure of how likely it is for a test to pick up the presence of a disease in a person who does have the disease. An ideal test will have a high sensitivity, meaning it will catch all people with the disease. Sensitivity is calculated by the following formula: True positives/True positives+False negative.

Specificity is a measure of how likely it is for a test to pick up the fact that a person does not have a disease when they are disease free. 100% specificity means a test will not predict anyone from a healthy group as sick. The formula for specificity is: True negative/true negative+False positive.

Significance testing is performed for a comparison between estimates to determine whether the difference between corresponding population characteristics is real (given the fact that estimates might have varied by chance because only a sample of persons was included in a survey). The extent of this variance is indicated by the standard error (SE). The SE of the difference between two corresponding estimates (x and y) can be calculated using the following formula:



This standard error is then used to calculate the following test statistic:



If the value of this test statistic is greater than 1.96 then there is evidence, with a 95% level of confidence, of a statistically significant difference in the two populations with respect to that characteristic. Otherwise, it cannot be stated with confidence that there is a real difference between the populations.

Somatic Relating to the body, or pertaining to the body as distinguished from the mind or psyche.

Stratum-Specific Likelihood Ratio (SSLR) is a method that begins with estimates of sensitivity and specificity for each stratum and estimates predicted probability of a characteristic based on external assumptions about prevalence in the population of interest (Guyatt and Rennie, 2001).

Substance Use Disorder includes harmful use of and/or dependence on drugs and/or alcohol.

The World Mental Health Survey Initiative is a project of the Assessment, Classification, and Epidemiology Group at the World Health Organization. The project is coordinating the implementation and analysis of general population surveys of mental, substance use, and behavioural disorders in countries in all WHO Regions, with the aim of obtaining accurate cross-national information about the prevalences and correlates of these disorders.


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