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Aboriginal Health Equity
8 July, 2019

New screening tool to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people combat depression

Aboriginal Health Equity

A culturally-appropriate depression screening tool for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples not only works, it should be rolled out across the country, according to a new study. 

Researchers at SAHMRI and the George Institute for Global Health, in partnership with key Aboriginal and Torres Strait primary care providers, conducted the validation study in 10 urban, rural and remote primary health services across Australia. 

The screening tool is an adapted version of the existing 9-item patient health questionnaire (PHQ-9) used across Australia and globally accepted as an effective screening method for depression. The adapted tool (aPHQ-9) contains culturally-appropriate questions asking about mood, appetite, sleep patterns, energy and concentration levels. It is hoped the adapted questionnaire will lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of depression in Aboriginal communities. 

The results of the validation study were published in the Medical Journal of Australia. 


The adapted tool, which was evaluated with 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, contains culturally-appropriate questions. 

For example, the original (PHQ-9) questionnaire asks: 

  • Over the last two weeks, how often have you been bothered by any of the following problems: Little interest or pleasure in doing things? 
  • Feeling down, depressed or hopeless 

The adapted (aPHQ-9) tool instead asks: 

  • Over the last two weeks have you been feeling slack, not wanted to do anything? 
  • Have you been feeling unhappy, depressed, really no good, that your spirit was sad? 

Learn more about the tool here.

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