Disability, social mobility and the well-being of people with disabilities


This project looks at the impact that the acquisition of a disability in adulthood has on subsequent socio-economic circumstances such as housing, education, income, social capital, wealth) and well-being. The main focus of this grant is to use advanced epidemiological, statistical and econometric methods to identify the causes of disability related health inequalities. We are using longitudinal studies and linked data from New Zealand.  It is anticipated that findings will inform service delivery and policy decisions. The project brings together expert researchers from epidemiology, econometrics and statistics who utilise longitudinal data to model the patterns of disability and subsequent socio-economic and health circumstances over time. The methods used aim to maximise the capacity to make causal statements and provide a template for future research and evaluation in this field.

Government and non-government organisations, disability services and people with disabilities will use the evidence generated from this project to set priorities for action to improve socio-economic conditions, productivity and health for people with disabilities. This will enable efficient and targeted use of limited resources. For example, if secure employment impacts on the health of people with disabilities, interventions to improve employment outcomes may also reduce health costs.


Research Team

Professor Anne Kavanagh, University of Melbourne
Professor Anthony LaMontagne, Deakin University
A/Professor Dennis Petrie, Monash University
A/Professor Allison Milner, University of Melbourne
Professor Julie Simpson, University of Melbourne
Zoe Aitken, University of Melbourne
Professor Eric Emerson, University of Lancaster and University of Sydney
Professor Tony Blakely, University of Otago

Funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant (DP170101434)

Research Outputs
  1. Aitken Z, Baker E, Mason K, Badland H, Bentley R, Beer A & Kavanagh A. Precariously placed: Housing affordability, quality and satisfaction of Australians with disabilities. Disability & Society (accepted 6 Sept 2018)
  2. Aitken Z, Simpson J, Gurrin L, Bentley R & Kavanagh A. Do material, psychosocial and behavioural factors mediate the relationship between disability acquisition and mental health? A sequential causal mediation analysis. Int J Epidemiol 2018, 47(3):829-840 . doi:10.1093/ije/dyx277
  3. Aitken Z, Krnjacki L, Kavanagh AM, LaMontagne AM & Milner A. Does social support modify the effect of disability acquisition on mental health? A longitudinal study of Australian adults. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol 2017; 52 (10): 1247. 10.1007/s00127-017-1418-5
  4. Aitken Z, Simpson J, Bentley R & Kavanagh AM. Disability acquisition and mental health: effect modification by demographic and socioeconomic characteristics using data from an Australian longitudinal study. BMJ Open, 2017; 7 (9). 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016953
  5. Milner A, Aitken Z, Kavanagh AM, LaMontagne AD, Pega F & Petrie D. Combining fixed effects and instrumental variable approaches for estimating the effect of psychosocial job quality on mental health: evidence from 13 waves of a nationally representative cohort study. Journal of Public Health 2018, 40(2), 426-434 10.1093/pubmed/fdx070
  6. Milner A, Blakely T, Disney G, Kavanagh AM, LaMontagne AD & Aitken Z. Do employment factors reduce the effect of low education on mental health? A causal mediation analysis using a national panel study. International Journal of Epidemiology, 2018, 47(5), 1423-1431 doi:10.1093/ije/dyy128
  7. Milner A, Aitken Z, Kavanagh AM, LaMontagne A & Petrie D. Status inconsistency and mental health: A random effects instrumental variables analysis using 13 annual waves of cohort data. Soc Sci Medicine 2017 189:129-137. 10.1016/j.socscimed.2017.08.001
  8. Milner A, Aitken Z, Kavanagh AM, LaMontagne A, Pega F & Petrie D. Combining fixed effects and instrumental variable approaches for estimating the effect of psychosocial job quality on mental health: Evidence from 13 waves of a nationally representative cohort study. J Public Health (Oxf.) 2017 Jun 23:1-9. 10.1093/pubmed/fdx070
  9. Kavanagh AM, Aitken Z, Emerson E, Sahabandu S, Milner A, Bentley R, LaMontagne AD, Pirkis J & Studdert D. Inequalities in socio-economic and health and wellbeing of men with and without disabilities: a cross-sectional analysis of the baseline wave of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health. BMC Public Health 2016, 16 (Supplement 3):1042. 10.1186/s12889-016-3700-y
  10. Aitken ZA, Simpson JA, Bentley R, Kavanagh AM. The effect of disability acquisition in adulthood on mental health: is the effect modified by demographic and socioeconomic factors? J Epidemiol Community Health 2016;70:A35-A36.10.1136/jech-2016-208064.61