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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee of Harvard University and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.
Informed consent/assent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study. Parental consent was obtained for all underage minors per school customs and policy.
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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
- Social support
- Global Mental Health
- Sub Saharan Africa