Aboriginal mothers in prison in Australia: a study of social, emotional and physical wellbeing

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 2019, 43 (3), pp. 241 - 247
Issue Date:
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© 2019 The Authors Objective: To describe the social, emotional and physical wellbeing of Aboriginal mothers in prison. Methods: Cross-sectional survey, including a Short Form Health Survey (SF-12) and Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (5-item version) administered to Aboriginal women who self-identified as mothers. Results: Seventy-seven Aboriginal mothers in New South Wales (NSW) and 84 in Western Australia (WA) participated in the study. Eighty-three per cent (n=59) of mothers in NSW were in prison for drug-related offences, 64.8% (n=46) of mothers in WA were in prison for offences committed under the influence of alcohol. Sixty-eight per cent (n=52) of mothers in NSW and 35% (n=28) of mothers in WA reported mental health problems. Physical (PCS) and Mental (MCS) component scores of SF-12 varied for mothers in NSW and WA. Mothers in NSW experienced poorer health and functioning than mothers in WA (NSW: PCS 49.5, MCS 40.6; WA: PCS 54.4, MCS 48.3) and high levels of psychological distress (NSW: 13.1; WA 10.1). Conclusions: Aboriginal mothers in prison have significant health needs associated with physical and mental health, and psychological distress. Implications for public health: Adoption of social and emotional wellbeing as an explanatory framework for culturally secure healthcare in prison is essential to improving health outcomes of Aboriginal mothers in prison in Australia.
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