HDR Scholarship - Modelling the population prevented fraction of health behaviours for the prevention of common mental disorders

Applications now open. A PhD scholarship is available to initiate and conduct research on the topic 'Modelling the population prevented fraction of health behaviours for the prevention of common mental disorders'.

Project Supervisor

Associate Supervisor

School OR Institute


Waurn Ponds Campus

Research topic

The 20th century saw major global lifestyle changes, concurrent with an increase in noncommunicable diseases and common mental disorders. These lifestyle changes included increased accessibility and decreased cost of energy dense, nutrient-poor foods at the expense of traditional healthful diets and decreased physical activity and increased sedentary behaviour in an increasingly technology-based society.

At the same time, depression is the leading cause of global disability. Of particular relevance is the fact that half of all mental disorders start before the age of 14; thus, the identification and targeting of risk factors in early life that are modifiable is essential. Critically, evidence now points to diet and physical activity as determinants of common mental disorders, particularly depression. The fact that these leading causes of disease burden are linked has very important implications for public health. There is now a clear imperative to target lifestyle behaviours for the prevention of mental disorders.

Despite this imperative, there is yet to be a population prevented fraction conducted for diet, physical activity and other health behaviours for the prevention of depression. The population prevented fraction is the proportion of incidents, in this case common mental disorders, that could be prevented by an exposure, being healthful behaviours, particularly in early life. Preliminary studies have established various individual, social and community-level factors associated with the risk of developing depression. Whilst variance has been established, these studies are limited in that they failed to investigate diet and physical activity as potential driving factors in population-level health outcomes. This proposed research, based at the Food and Mood Centre, Institute for Mental and Physical Health and Clinical Translation, will establish such estimates, and compare with the preventive potential emerging from the harmonized database findings.

Project aim

This research involves the harmonizing and analysis of public-use and other cohort data, to extrapolate the population prevented fraction, being the overall per cent of disease that can be prevented by an exposure, of diet, physical activity and other health behaviours, for the prevention of common mental disorders. Data harmonizing will involve bringing together multiple data sources to a cohesive form, with which the population prevented fraction will be extrapolated. The student will be based within the Food and Mood Centre, a multi-disciplinary research group dedicated to the study of nutritional and other modifiable approaches to mental disorders but will liaise with national and international public health data custodians. The candidate would ideally hold a background in health science, psychology, statistics, epidemiology, public health and health promotion, or other relevant fields. The candidate would be able to demonstrate strong statistical analysis skills and/or be willing to participate in advanced training to ensure these skills. The student will be conducting primarily secondary analysis, however, there will be an opportunity for the student to contribute to a broad range of projects to allow the development of a range of skills during their candidature. The student will also conduct a systematic review or meta-analysis.

Important dates

Applications close 5pm, Thursday 29 October 2020


This scholarship is available over 3 years.

  • Stipend of $28,092 per annum tax exempt (2020 rate)
  • Relocation allowance of $500-1500 (for single to family) for students moving from interstate or overseas

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible you must:

  • be a domestic candidate (domestic includes candidates with Australian Citizenship, Australian Permanent Residency or New Zealand Citizenship).
  • meet Deakin's PhD entry requirements
  • be enrolling full time and hold an honours degree (first class) or an equivalent standard master's degree with a substantial research component.

Please refer to the research degree entry pathways page for further information.

How to apply

Learn more about submitting a successful application on the How to apply page

Find out more

Contact us

For more information about this scholarship, please contact Dr Erin Hoare

Dr Erin Hoare
National Health & Medical Research Council, Early Career Fellow
Email Erin Hoare