Rurality as a predictor of perinatal mental health and well-being in an Australian cohort

Megan Galbally, Stuart J. Watson, Mathew Coleman, Paul Worley, Leanda Verrier, Vineet Padmanabhan, Andrew J. Lewis

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Objective: Perinatal emotional well-being is more than the presence or absence of depressive and anxiety disorders; it encompasses a wide range of factors that contribute to emotional well-being. This study compares perinatal well-being between women living in metropolitan and rural regions. 

Design: Prospective, longitudinal cohort. 

Participants/setting: Eight hundred and six women from Victoria and Western Australia recruited before 20 weeks of pregnancy and followed up to 12 months postpartum.

Main outcome measures: Rurality was assessed using the Modified Monash Model (MM Model) with 578 in metropolitan cities MM1, 185 in regional and large rural towns MM2-MM3 and 43 in rural to remote MM4-MM7. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID-IV) was administered at recruitment to assess depression, and symptoms of depression and anxiety were measured using the Edinburgh Post-natal Depression Scale and the State and Trait Anxiety Scale, respectively. Other measures included stressful events, diet, exercise, partner support, parenting and sleep. 

Results: The prevalence of depressive disorders did not differ across rurality. There was also no difference in breastfeeding cessation, exercise, sleep or partner support. Women living in rural communities and who also had depression reported significantly higher parenting stress than metropolitan women and lower access to parenting activities. 

Conclusions: Our study suggests while many of the challenges of the perinatal period were shared between women in all areas, there were important differences in parenting stress and access to activities. Furthermore, these findings suggest that guidelines and interventions designed for perinatal mental health should consider rurality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-195
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Journal of Rural Health
Issue number2
Early online date17 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • depression
  • parenting
  • perinatal
  • pregnancy
  • rural


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