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Depression and Anxiety Symptoms, Social Support, and Demographic Factors Among Kenyan High School Students

Abstract

Objectives

Depression and anxiety are leading causes of youth disability worldwide, yet our understanding of these conditions in Sub-Saharan African (SSA) youths is limited. Research has been sparse in SSA, and prevalence rates and correlates of these conditions remain scarcely investigated. To help address these gaps, this cross-sectional study assessed the prevalence of adolescent depression and anxiety symptoms in a community sample of high school students in Kenya. We also examined associations between those symptoms and psychosocial and sociodemographic factors.

Methods

We administered self-report measures of depression and anxiety symptoms, social support, gratitude, growth mindsets, and life satisfaction to 658 students (51.37% female) aged 13–19.

Results

Only the measures of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder Screen-7), and social support (Multidimensional Scale for Perceived Social Support Scale) showed adequate internal consistency (Cronbach alpha > 0.70) in the study sample. Findings with these measures among Kenyan youths showed high levels of depression symptoms (45.90% above clinical cutoff) and anxiety symptoms (37.99% above clinical cutoff). Older adolescents reported higher depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as lower social support than younger adolescents. Females reported more anxiety than males, and members of minority tribes reported more anxiety than members of majority tribes.

Conclusions

This study highlights the high prevalence of adolescent internalizing symptoms in Kenyan high school students, identifies important correlates of these symptoms, and illustrates the need for culturally appropriate assessment tools.

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Acknowledgements

This study was funded by grants from the Harvard University Center for African Studies, the Harvard College Research Program, and the Harvard University Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. The authors are grateful to the principals and school administrators of the five schools that we worked with in Kenya. In particular, we are grateful to Mr. Jarius Akweya for his support.

Author Contributions

T.O. designed and executed the study, analyzed the data, and wrote the paper. K.V. designed and executed the study, assisted with data analyses, and wrote the methods and part of the results. A.W. designed and executed the study, assisted with data analyses, and wrote parts of the introduction and discussion sections. J.S. collaborated with the design, data analyses, and writing of the study. J.W. collaborated with the design, data analyses, and writing of the study.

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Correspondence to Tom L. Osborn.

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Osborn, T.L., Venturo-Conerly, K.E., Wasil, A.R. et al. Depression and Anxiety Symptoms, Social Support, and Demographic Factors Among Kenyan High School Students. J Child Fam Stud 29, 1432–1443 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01646-8

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Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Social support
  • Global Mental Health
  • Sub Saharan Africa