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Cultural diversity and mental health : the relationship between leisure experiences and wellbeing in an ageing Italian community in Australia

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conference contribution
posted on 2005-01-01, 00:00 authored by R Pereira, Matthew Ebden, Karen StagnittiKaren Stagnitti
One of the population health implications for Australia’s ageing population is that a larger proportion of the Australian community will be retired and have more time for leisure pursuits. Meaningful leisure activities for this group are thought to be a factor in promoting positive mental health. However, a search of health literature revealed a paucity of research on how older adults make use of their leisure time, what meaning these pursuits have to them, and whether their chosen leisure activities are health enhancing and promote wellbeing. Australia’s population is diverse with many cultures represented. As the population ages, mental health workers will be called upon to provide culturally-appropriate mental health services to clients from a range of ethnic groups. Literature on how people of culturally diverse backgrounds understand leisure activities is also limited. This paper reports on a study carried out in an Italian community in a large regional centre. The participants were selected based on the following criteria; aged 65 years and over, born in Italy, independently living in the community, ambulant, and retired from paid workforce. This study explored how a well-elderly group from an ethnic community derived meaning from their leisure activities and how this impacted on their mental health. Establishing the relationship between leisure and mental health in an ageing ethnic community is important because it sheds light on potential intervention strategies that can be used to maintain the mental health of people living independently in the community. Participants were interviewed using semi-structured questions about their perceptions of leisure, the meanings they derived from these activities, and their perceived impact of these activities on their health. Participant observation was also used to add trustworthiness to the data. Themes arising from the interviews and participant observation will be related to the participants’ sense of health. Results also revealed how older Italians engaged in leisure activities. Implications of the research findings will be directed towards mental health practice with older ethnic clients in community settings. The promotion of healthy lifestyles and positive mental health for Australia’s ageing population will also be discussed.



Victorian Transcultural Mental Health Research Conference (2005 : Melbourne, Vic.)


Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit


Melbourne, Vic.

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Melbourne, Vic.

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Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright owner

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E3 Extract of paper

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2005, Victorian Transcultural Psychiatry Unit

Title of proceedings

Victorian Transcultural Mental Health Research Conference : Fostering and Supporting Research in Culture and Mental Care

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