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Psychologists concerned at growing income inequality

mental health
Photo: APS shines spotlight on mental health
Psychologists are concerned at increasing levels of income inequality contributing to poorer mental health and well-being among disadvantaged Australians.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS), the peak professional organisation for psychologists with more than 21,000 members, fears many measures outlined in this year’s federal budget risk widening rather than reducing income and other inequalities.

In its recent submission to the Federal Government’s inquiry into income inequality in Australia, the APS states the growing gap will impact on vulnerable groups, ranging from young people to older Australians, women, the unemployed, single parents, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, migrants and refugees.

The organisation has expressed concerns at budget measures comprising cuts to education funding, proposed welfare changes, moves to link the age pension to CPI rather than changes in wages, the introduction of the GP co-payment, and the $165 million cut to the Indigenous health budget.

In its submission, co-author Heather Gridley states inequality exacerbates disadvantage which impacts on people’s mental health, physical health and well-being.

“These groups are already vulnerable to living in poverty, and to psychological distress associated with these material living conditions,” the submission states.

“Growing inequality risks further marginalising them by making it more difficult to access health, housing and employment, as well as increasing stigma and diminishing equality of opportunity more generally.

“The APS is concerned therefore, about how the recent federal budget measures might contribute to growing inequality and undermine some of the outcomes associated with more promising initiatives.”

The submission states Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience “alarming disparities in health”, such as a 10 to 17-year gap in life expectancy and are also twice as likely to report higher levels of psychological distress compared to non-Indigenous Australians.

The APS wants disadvantaged groups and communities to have improved access to health services and resources.

It's recommended the government include as a guiding principle the responsibility of government to provide a safety net for those vulnerable, in a bid to decrease poverty and boost community well-being, while enabling all Australians the right to financial security and income support.

“Growing income inequality and its associated impacts is one of the most significant issues facing Australia,” it states.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords