Mental Health of Young Australians Research

‘Sleep Problems in Young People: Assessing Impact on Mental Health, Behaviour and Educational Outcomes’

Swinburne University of Technology, VIC
Awarded 2017

Co-funded by The Lorraine and Bruce Mckenzie Scholarship


Researcher Profile

In 2013, Ali graduated with first class Honours in Psychology at Victoria University. His fourth year thesis investigated sleep and mood factors as predictors of insomnia and the effects of sleep disturbance on cognitive performance in adults. As further evidence of the quality of Ali’s Honours research project, he successfully converted the thesis into a high quality conference publication at the Australasian Chronobiology Society Conference.

Alongside his research skills, Ali has developed professional skills in working people who are seeking help for their anxiety and other mental health issues from the Anxiety Disorders Association of Victoria. These professional skills developed from working “in the field” give Ali a well-rounded perspective on what is required for his project with implications for real-world practice.

Project Summary

The current project will investigate how sleep problems may underpin many of the psychological, behavioural, socio-emotional, and academic outcomes seen in young people. Research has shown that due to an array of interacting intrinsic, socio-cultural and environmental factors, younger populations are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of disturbed sleep. Nonetheless, the prevalence of sleep problems in children and young adults remains sufficiently large and warrants specific attention.

The first study is part of an international investigation into a self- parent and teacher-report sleep quality measure, using the Sleep Disorder Inventory for Students (SDIS), which has gained widespread attention in USA, Greece, Italy, Korea, South Africa and Vietnam. As part of this international investigation, the first study will examine the validity of the SDIS amongst different age groups in Australia. In addition, the current research will investigate how sleep problems are associated with negative mental health outcomes among children and young adult populations.

The overarching aim of the project is to investigate how sleep problems are associated with negative mental health outcomes, behavioural problems, social-emotional functioning and educational outcomes in schoolchildren and young adults. A comprehensive narrative review of the research evidence in this area, will be followed by a study investigating the measurement of sleep problems in Australian school students (ages 5-17) and how these sleep problems affect functioning. The same research questions will then be investigated in a sample of young adults (ages 18-25) due to the over-representation of mental health problems in this age group.

Supervisors: Dr Ben Bullock, Professor Gerard Kennedy and Dr Monica Thielking