RESEARCH UNDERWAY

Improving the life chances of young disabled Australians (2009-2011)

This project will investigate the impact of disability on young people at the time of onset and over time. It will identify why some young people are more resilient and others more vulnerable in the face of adversity. The outcome will be a model of the impact of disability which can be used to guide and monitor progress towards Australia's social inclusion agenda for people with disabilities.

Project team

Prof Gwynnyth Llewellyn
Prof Eric Emerson
Dr Anne Honey
Dr Maina Kariuki

Overview

A quarter of a million young Australians enter adulthood with a long-standing illness or impairment that is likely to result in disability, the impact of which may be felt throughout their life course. Our research will provide an empirically validated model of the psychological, social and economic impact of disability on young Australians. Our life course approach will examine how life chances through adolescence and early adulthood diverge in terms of socio-economic standing, family circumstances, cultural background and gender. We will apply our multi-disciplinary understanding of disability and life transitions to modelling the complex interactions between disability, employment, social participation, and material and subjective wellbeing. Our major aims are:

  1. To identify the psychological, social and economic factors that either moderate or accentuate the impact of disability on transitions into and out of employment, social participation, and material and subjective wellbeing.
  2. To determine the diverse pathways taken by young Australians living with disability and the consequences of these pathways for greater material, social and subjective well-being over the life course.
  3. To identify the psychological, social and economic factors that are associated with the onset and duration of long-term illness or impairments associated with disability during early adulthood.
  4. To establish the economic and social status of young disabled Australians compared with that of their non-disabled peers and whether differences in relative status are changing over time.
  5. To assess the extent to which the economic and social status of young disabled people is shaped by the economic, social and policy context in Australia as contrasted with the United Kingdom.

Approach

In this project we will analyze data from Waves 1-8 (2001-2008) of a large nationally representative survey - the annual survey of Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA). HILDA provides an outstanding national resource of information on changes in self-reported long-term health conditions, impairment and disability and a wide array of variables relating to material, social and subjective well-being. It is a panel study originating from a national probability sample of approximately 7,500 Australian households in 2001 (Wave 1), with updates each year. Comprehensive information on HILDA is available at http:melbourneinstitute.com/HILDA/.

We have developed a set of social indicators from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and, in a feasibility study, have successfully aligned them with markers of material, social and subjective wellbeing in the HILDA database. These indicators will be used to measure the wellbeing of young Australians with disabilities. Using multivariate analysis of longitudinal data we will address the following specific research questions:

  1. What is the impact of the presence of disability on transitions into and out of employment, social participation, material and subjective wellbeing?
  2. What are the association between transitions into disability and employment, social participation, material and subjective wellbeing?
  3. Why do some young people living with disability have greater material, social and subjective well-being than others? Specifically, what are the psychological, social and economic factors that either mitigate or accentuate the impact of disability?
  4. How does the material, social and subjective well-being of Australian adolescents and young adults living with disability compare with that of their non-disabled peers? Are these differences changing over time?
  5. To what extent are differences in subjective well-being between young people with and without disabilities related to differences in material and social well-being?

Anticipated outcomes

The project will develop a conceptual model that takes into account transitions into and out of social and economic adversity and divergent pathways over the life course. The outcome will be a model of the impact of disability which can be used to guide and monitor progress towards Australia's social inclusion agenda for people with disabilities.

Related publications

Emerson, E., Honey, A., Llewellyn, G., & Kariuki, M. (submitted April 2010). Social Context and the Subjective well-being of Australian adolescents and young adults with self-reported disability. Disability and Rehabilitation.

Kariuki, M., Honey, A., Emerson, E., & Llewellyn, G. (submitted March 2010). Mental health trajectories of young people after disability onset. Disability and Health.

Honey, A., Emerson, E., Llewellyn, G., & Kariuki, M. (in press). Mental Health and Disability. In M. Blouin & J. Stone (Eds.) International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation (accepted 6th June 2010).

Honey, A., Emerson, E., & Llewellyn, G. (2009). The mental health of young people with disabilities: Impact of social conditions. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. Online version available at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/4q0071k3p5704372/fulltext.pdf

Fraser, V., Madden, R., Honey, A., Llewellyn, G., & Emerson, E. (2010). Indicators of Health and Well-being for Children and Young People with Disabilities: Mapping the Terrain and Proposing a Human Rights Approach. Report for ARACY. Available at: https://www.aracy.org.au/publications-resources/command/download_file/id/105/filename/Indicators_of_Health_and_Well-being_for_Children_and_Young_people_with_disabilities_-_literature_review.pdf

Emerson, E., Honey, A., Madden, R., & Llewellyn, G. (2009). The well-being of Australian adolescents and young adults with self-reported long-term health conditions, impairments or disabilities: 2001 and 2006. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 44(1), 37-51.

Honey, A., Llewellyn, G., Schneider, J., & Wedgwood, N. (2009). Approaching adulthood with a chronic health condition: Professionals' and young people's perspectives. In D. Bennett, S. Towns, E. Elliott, & J. Merrick (Eds.), Challenges in adolescent health: An Australian perspective. New York: Nova Science Publishers Inc.

Emerson, E., Honey, A. & Llewellyn, G. (2007). The well-being and aspirations of Australian adolescents and young adults with a long-term health condition, disability or impairment. Report for ARACY.

Wedgwood, N., Llewellyn, G., Honey, A., & Schneider, J. (2007). The transition of adolescents with chronic health conditions from paediatric to adult services. Report for ARACY.

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