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Mental health and the PATH to Midlife

image - PATH2
Date Commenced:
Project Supporters:


NHMRC Project Grant (1081617)

Project Members: 
image - Rebecca McKetin   Lo Rez Uncropped Linkedin
Associate Professor
Ph 02 93850331 (Ext x 50294)
Project Collaborators: External: 

Peter Butterworth
Australian National University

Kaarin Anstey
University of New South Wales

Nicolas Cherbuin
Australian National University

Simon Easteal
Australian National University

Leach L
Australian National University

Burns R
Australian National University

Tim Slade
University of Melbourne

Paul McNamee
University of Aberdeen


Mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are the leading cause of disability amongst Australians from early adulthood through to midlife. However, there is a dearth of longitudinal data tracking anxiety and depression across this period of the lifecourse: information needed to understand patterns of onset, remission, relapse and chronicity. Further, the established measures of disease burden (eg, QALYs) are limited in scope and do not capture the social and economic impact of anxiety and depression, nor their impact on families, friends and communities. Thus our estimates of the costs and consequences of these mental disorders are incomplete. Such information is essential to design and target treatment to meet the needs of people with anxiety and depression, and to evaluate the benefits of prevention.


The PATH to Midlife project will address this gap in our understanding of anxiety and depression. The project extends to midlife the longitudinal coverage of a large community study: the PATH through Life project. The PATH project commenced in 1999 with a sample of 2404 respondents aged in their early 20s, selected from Canberra and the surrounding region. This project will collect new data from around 1900 of these participants who will now be aged between 37 and 44 years (the fifth time many have participated in the study). With this new resource we will analyse trajectories of anxiety and depression from early adulthood to midlife, identifying patterns of comorbidity and risk profiles. Midlife is a critical point in the lifecourse at which work, family and personal achievements and responsibilities coalesce. PATH collects detailed data across a wide range of personal, social and economic domains (eg, physical health, cognitive functioning, family/social relationships, work). Sophisticated longitudinal analysis of this rich new data source will identify the broader consequences of anxiety and depression across adulthood.

Design and Method: 

A fifth wave of data collection from the PATH cohort, involving an online survey and a personal assessment (battery of physical and cognitive tasks, and a structured diagnostic psychiatric interview). PATH participants were randomly selected from the electoral rolls of Canberra and neighbouring Queanbeyan in 1999. There were 2404 interviews conducted at wave 1. Subsequent waves of data collection have occurred approximately every four years, with wave-to-wave retention rates at wave 2 and 3 around 90%. An abbreviated interview procedure was used at wave 4 (2011/12), with a randomly selected subsample of participants (n=580) invited to undertake the physical, cognitive and clinical assessment with the remainder of the survey accessible via a secure online server.



Project Research Area: 
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