Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology

, Volume 41, Issue 9, pp 720–727 | Cite as

Women’s reproductive health and depression

A community survey in the Gambia, West Africa
  • Rosalind Coleman
  • Linda MorisonEmail author
  • Katie Paine
  • Richard A. Powell
  • Gijs Walraven



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 



We thank Robin Bailey, Gloria Ekpo, Caroline Scherf, Beryl West and Keith McAdam for their contributions in planning and performing this study; Fabakary Sanyang and the field workers represented by Hawa Manneh and Louie Loppy for the field organisation and data collection; Anne Marie Mendy of the Community Mental Health Team for advice and field worker training; Kunle Okunoye for data management; the women who participated in the survey and Vikram Patel for comments on an earlier draught.


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag Darmstadt 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosalind Coleman
    • 1
  • Linda Morison
    • 2
    Email author
  • Katie Paine
    • 3
  • Richard A. Powell
    • 4
  • Gijs Walraven
    • 1
  1. 1.Medical Research Council LaboratoriesBanjulThe Gambia
  2. 2.MRC Tropical Epidemiology Group, Dept. of Epidemiology and Population HealthLondon School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineLondonUK
  3. 3.Medical Research Council LaboratoriesFajaraThe Gambia
  4. 4.Policy and Research DirectorateSainsbury Centre for Mental HealthLondonUK

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