Social and emotional well-being is an important component of overall health. In the Indigenous Australian context, risk indicators of poor social and emotional well-being include social determinants such as poor education, employment, income and housing as well as substance use, racial discrimination and cultural knowledge. This study sought to investigate associations between oral health-related factors and social and emotional well-being in a birth cohort of young Aboriginal adults residing in the northern region of Australia's Northern Territory.
Data were collected on five validated domains of social and emotional well-being: anxiety, resilience, depression, suicide and overall mental health. Independent variables included socio-demographics, dental health behaviour, dental disease experience, oral health-related quality of life, substance use, racial discrimination and cultural knowledge.
After adjusting for other covariates, poor oral health-related items were associated with each of the social and emotional well-being domains. Specifically, anxiety was associated with being female, having one or more decayed teeth and racial discrimination. Resilience was associated with being male, having a job, owning a toothbrush, having one or more filled teeth and knowing a lot about Indigenous culture; while being female, having experienced dental pain in the past year, use of alcohol, use of marijuana and racial discrimination were associated with depression. Suicide was associated with being female, having experience of untreated dental decay and racial discrimination; while being female, having experience of dental disease in one or more teeth, being dissatisfied about dental appearance and racial discrimination were associated with poor mental health.
The results suggest there may be value in including oral health-related initiatives when exploring the role of physical conditions on Indigenous social and emotional well-being.