Study to treat China’s growing mental health problem

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 25-8-2011

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Sydney Campus

Publication Place



A significant number of Chinese youth struggle in silence against mental illness, says Associate Professor Lawrence Lam, a Psychologist, Epidemiologist and a Medical Statistician at The University of Notre Dame Australia, School of Medicine in Sydney.

“Based on clinical observation and anecdotal information, we believe that children of the ‘floating population’ in China may experience significant stress and suffer a higher level of mental health problems than other local young people,” Associate Professor Lam said.

China has a large “floating population” of some 221 million people, who were born in rural areas but settle in the cities. They move to escape poverty or to take advantage of the better employment opportunities but are restricted by rigid laws on migration. These laws affect their access to healthcare, education and housing.

As a result of these living conditions, young people face social isolation and high rates of physical and psychological bullying, which can lead to depression and other mental illnesses, including substance abuse.

A new study designed by Associate Professor Lam will investigate the mental health status of a cohort of high school students to better identify and treat China’s growing mental health problems.

The Wuxi Adolescents Mental Health Longitudinal Study will commence in September in Wuxi, a heavily populated city close to Shanghai. It is the first study of its kind to be conducted in China.

Associate Professor Lam said the Wuxi government has partially funded the project because it is keen to provide health services to high-risk groups of young people.

“To obtain scientific data, as part of the evidence-based medical practices promoted in China, this study has great potential to provide important epidemiological information for mental health service delivery to this specific group of young people,” Associate Professor Lam said.

Associate Professor Lam’s evidence and recommendations will have an immediate effect on the mental health of young people in China, with the local health authorities using his data to tailor-make programs for high-risk adolescents. In the long-term, this research could also provide solutions to the mental health issues experienced by young migrants internationally.

The preliminary findings of the Wuxi Adolescents Mental Health Longitudinal Study will be available in late 2012.

For further information please contact: Communications Officer, Elizabeth Fenech The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney Campus T: 02 8204 4407 E: elizabeth.fenech@nd.edu.au W: www.nd.edu.au/