In reply: Comparing data across different data collections is essential to advance knowledge. However, such comparisons are highly complex and require careful consideration of data item definitions, age ranges, population groups, time periods and data collection aims. Davenport and colleagues compare the aggregate data we reported for all headspace centre clients from early 2013 with data published from two Sydney centres collected between 2007 and 2009, and with general practice client data from people with self-reported significant mental health problems in 2001. The variance of the Sydney centres demonstrates the diversity among headspace centres, which were rolled out at different time points and responsive to a wide range of community contexts across Australia.1 Consequently, aggregate data provide just one small step in our understanding. With the capability enabled by the new headspace data-collection system implemented in 2013, describing the commonalities and differences between centres and identifying peer groups will be a priority.2
In response to the request by Hickie and colleagues for clarification about engagement in education, employment and training ― an increasingly important focus for youth services3 — the Box provides more detailed information relevant to youth unemployment using the full year's data for 2013 for headspace centres and comparing these with 2011 census data. This reveals a very high level of need for vocational assistance among young people when they first access headspace centres, as well as the variation in need across centres. Interpreting differences between the aggregate data and population level data and between centres demonstrates the challenges in data comparison.
Proportion of young people aged 17–25 years not currently engaged in education, by employment category (2011 census* v 2013 headspace centre client data†)
headspace centres (n = 9922)
Census proportion (n = 1 321 950)
Employed away from work
Unemployed looking for full-time work
Unemployed looking for part-time work
Not in labour force
* 2011 Census TableBuilder Basic. † Collected from all 56 centres between January and December 2013. ‡ Includes casual and part-time. § Word “unemployed” not used in survey.
- 1. McGorry PD, Tanti C, Stokes R, et al. headspace: Australia's National Youth Mental Health Foundation — where young minds come first. Med J Aust 2007; 187 (7 Suppl): S68-S70. <MJA full text>
- 2. Rickwood DJ, Van Dyke N, Telford N. Innovation in youth mental health services in Australia: common characteristics across the first headspace centres. Early Interv Psychiatry 2013; Jul 4 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1111/eip.12071.
- 3. Scott J, Fowler D, McGorry P, et al. Adolescents and young adults who are not in employment, education, or training. BMJ 2013; 347: f5270.
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