This project comprises the analysis of DNA samples obtained within the NHRMC funded 5-year longitudinal study of mental health among rural community residents.

A broad set of personal, social, mental health and physical health variables (including interview based assessment of mental health) have been obtained from over 1000 participants. The analysis will investigate the role of genetic and environmental factors in mental health outcomes in this sample (specifically common disorders such as depressive disorders), targeting genes identified in previous studies. This analysis will examine novel associations with personal and social variables, and enable the development of a unique dataset as a valuable resource for future studies and for links with other large-scale cohort studies. Links have been established with the Hunter Community Study, including a phase of joint data collection (providing a sample of over 4000 individuals with comprehensive health and social data).

Specific Project Details
The specific objectives of the proposal are the analysis of existing DNA data collected within the Australian Rural Mental Health study (NHMRC grants: 401241 and 631061) (Kelly et al Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 46: 1331-1342). The collection of these samples was supported by the Neurobehavioral Genetics Research program (funded By NSW Health).

The data collected at each phase of ARMHS data collection (baseline, 12 month, 3 year and 5 year data collection) enable characterisation of symptoms and their course over time, and the genetic determinants of these variants. Such characterisation will provide epidemiologic data for back translation to current laboratory based research investigating novel models of depression (e.g. neuroinflammatory processes). This is a unique rural/regional longitudinal data set primary outcome measures assessing psychiatric symptoms and disorder (including diagnostic interview data), and core independent variables: social and family functioning, socio-economic factors, adverse life experiences, health service use and its determinants, physical health. This study also focussed on the household unit and has the capacity to investigate household level contribution to risk and resilience to mental health outcomes over time.

The combined HCS and ARMHS data set (Allen et al, BMC Medical Research Methodology, in press) and EOI for Project Grant Funding will allow for the capacity to investigate important questions regarding the course and outcome of mental symptoms and disorder (specifically depression), and genetic/environmental aspects of recovery from such conditions, response to adversity and resilience (persistent wellbeing and health. A joint phase of data collection across these cohorts (funded by beyondblue and HMRI/Xstrata) has provided a unique set of common measures across both studies; specifically:
1.    Primary outcome measures:
a)    Psychological Symptoms: Kessler 10; Patient Health Questionnaire (depression measures), CES-D depression scale,
b) General health and functioning SF-36 and AQOL
c) Mental Disorders (ICD-10 and DSM-IV) Composite International Diagnostic Interview  
(WHO) - Lifetime and current mental disorder with focus on affective disorders, 
Substance use and anxiety disorders

2. Determinants and predictor variables
a) Social Support (Duke Social Support Instrument); Interview Schedule for Social 
b) Recent adverse life events
c) Dispositional factors: hopefulness

The primary aim of this project is to investigate the genetic determinants of psychological symptom profiles within these cohorts, specifically the determinants of the longitudinal course of psychological symptom clusters and profiles over time. The role of life stress and social support in mental health outcomes is a key focus of this study. Robust measures of stress exposure and personal and social functioning enable assessment of the interaction between genetic characteristics.

Research Area 
Project type 
Project Grant
Year of funding