Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 41, Issue 9, pp 720-727

First online:

Women’s reproductive health and depression

A community survey in the Gambia, West Africa
  • Rosalind ColemanAffiliated withMedical Research Council Laboratories
  • , Linda MorisonAffiliated withMRC Tropical Epidemiology Group, Dept. of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Email author 
  • , Katie PaineAffiliated withMedical Research Council Laboratories
  • , Richard A. PowellAffiliated withPolicy and Research Directorate, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health
  • , Gijs WalravenAffiliated withMedical Research Council Laboratories

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Depression is the commonest mental illness in developing countries and impoverished women are most at risk. Formal mental health services in these situations are rare. Depression commonly co-presents with physical symptoms or else is unspectacular, so the condition often goes unrecognised. To strengthen the prevention and management of depression, information is required on easily recognisable correlates of depression. This study explored associations between depression and reproductive health conditions in rural African women of reproductive age.


A community-based reproductive health survey among rural women aged 15–54 years in The Gambia, West Africa, included screening with a modified Edinburgh Depression Scale (EDS), a reproductive health questionnaire and a gynaecological examination. Depression was then assessed clinically and data for 565 women were used to estimate the prevalence of depression and examine associations with reproductive health conditions and demographic factors.


The weighted prevalence of depression was 10.3% (95% CI 8.3–12.7). Being depressed was most significantly associated with widowhood or divorce (adjusted Odds Ratio (aOR) 8.42, 2.77–25.57), infertility (3.69, 1.42–9.65) and severe menstrual pain (3.94, 1.52–10.27). There were significant differences between ethnic groups. Being in the postpartum period was not associated with an increased likelihood of depression.


This study points to the importance of reproductive potential and reproductive health in maintaining women’s mental well-being across different strata of a rural and resource-poor society. It could provide an initial focus for the management of women with depression as well as directing future research in reproductive health and psychiatry.

Key words

depression common mental disorders (CMD) Africa reproductive health