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Indigenous Australians experience higher levels of psychological distress compared to the general population. Physical activity is a culturally acceptable approach, associated with reduction of depressive symptoms. The protective properties of physical activity for depressive symptoms are yet to be evaluated in older Indigenous Australians.
A two-phase study design comprised of a qualitative thematic analysis following a quantitative regression and moderation analysis.
Firstly, a total of 336 Indigenous Australians aged 60 years and over from five NSW areas participated in assessments on mental health, physical activity participation, and childhood trauma. Secondly, a focus group of seven Indigenous Australians was conducted to evaluate barriers and facilitators to physical activity.
Regression and moderation analyses examined links between depression, childhood trauma, and physical activity. Thematic analysis was conducted exploring facilitators and barriers to physical activity following the focus group.
Childhood trauma severity and intensity of physical activity predicted depressive symptoms. Physical activity did not affect the strength of the relationship between childhood trauma and depression. Family support and low impact activities facilitated commitment to physical activity. In contrast, poor mental health, trauma, and illness acted as barriers.
Physical activity is an appropriate approach for reducing depressive symptoms and integral in maintaining health and quality of life. While situational factors, health problems and trauma impact physical activity, accessing low-impact group activities with social support was identified to help navigate these barriers.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a relatively high prevalence of multimorbidity requiring treatment with medications. This study examines medication use and anticholinergic burden (ACB) among a cohort of older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people.
This cross-sectional study involving five Aboriginal communities (two in metropolitan Sydney and three on the mid-north coast of New South Wales) used a structured interview process to assess cognition, depression, and activities of daily living for a cohort of older adults (aged 60 years and over). Participants also reported on their health status, medical history, and prescription medications during the interview. ACB was calculated, and its association with adverse health outcomes including cognitive impairment, falls, hospitalization, and depressive symptoms were examined.
Most participants (95%) were taking at least one regular medication with polypharmacy (≥5 medications) observed in 43% of participants; 12.2% had a significant ACB (≥3) with antidepressants being a major contributor. Anticholinergic medication use was associated with cognitive impairment, recent hospitalization (past 12 months), and depressive symptoms. After controlling for age, sex, and comorbidity, only the presence of depressive symptoms remained significantly associated with the use of anticholinergic medication (odds ratio 2.86; 95% confidence interval 1.48–5.51).
Clinically significant ACB was common in older Aboriginal Australians and was largely attributable to inappropriate use of tricyclic antidepressants. Greater awareness of medication-related risk factors among both health care professionals and Aboriginal communities can play an important role in improving health and quality of life outcomes.
Aboriginal Australians experience higher rates of non-communicable chronic disease, injury, dementia, and mortality than non-Aboriginal Australians. Self-reported health is a holistic measure and may fit well with Aboriginal views of health and well-being. This study aimed to identify predictors of self-reported health in older Aboriginal Australians and determine acceptable research methodologies for future aging research.
Longitudinal, population-based study.
Five communities across New South Wales, Australia (two urban and three regional sites).
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (n = 227; 60–88 years, M = 66.06, SD = 5.85; 145 female).
Participants completed baseline (demographic, medical, cognitive, mental health, and social factors) and follow-up assessments (self-reported health quantified with 5-point scale; sharing thoughts on areas important for future research). Predictors of self-reported health were examined using logistic regression analyses.
Self-reported health was associated with sex, activities of daily living, social activity participation, resilience, alcohol use, kidney problems, arthritis, falls, and recent hospitalization. Arthritis, kidney problems, and resilience remained significant in multiple logistic regression models.
Perceived resilience and the absence of certain chronic age-related conditions predict older Aboriginal peoples’ self-reported health. Understanding these factors could inform interventions to improve well-being. Findings on acceptable research methodologies suggest that many older Aboriginal people would embrace a range of methodologies within long-standing research partnerships, which is an important consideration for Indigenous population research internationally.
Dementia is an emerging health priority in Australian Aboriginal communities, but substantial gaps remain in our understanding of this issue, particularly for the large urban section of the population. In remote Aboriginal communities, high prevalence rates of dementia at relatively young ages have been reported. The current study is investigating aging, cognitive decline, and dementia in older urban/regional Aboriginal Australians.
We partnered with five Aboriginal communities across the eastern Australian state of New South Wales, to undertake a census of all Aboriginal men and women aged 60 years and over residing in these communities. This was followed by a survey of the health, well-being, and life history of all consenting participants. Participants were also screened using three cognitive instruments. Those scoring below designated cut-offs, and a 20% random sample of those scoring above (i.e. “normal” range), completed a contact person interview (with a nominated family member) and medical assessment (blind to initial screening results), which formed the basis of “gold standard” clinical consensus determinations of cognitive impairment and dementia.
This paper details our protocol for a population-based study in collaboration with local Aboriginal community organizations. The study will provide the first available prevalence rates for dementia and cognitive impairment in a representative sample of urban Aboriginal people, across city and rural communities, where the majority of Aboriginal Australians live. It will also contribute to improved assessment of dementia and cognitive impairment and to the understanding of social determinants of successful aging, of international significance.
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