Depression and Anxiety Symptoms Among Kenyan adolescents: Prevalence Rates and Associations with Socio-demographic and Psycho-social Factors During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Transforming mental health for all

Background

Research dedicated to youth mental health problems in low – resource countries is an urgent and critical global health priority. Prior to COVID-19, only a handful of studies had estimated the prevalence rates of youth depression and anxiety and identified the associations between these problems with socio-demographic and psychosocial variables. AsCOVID-19 has emerged as a stressor for youth mental health,  new studies on youth mental health during and postCOVID-19 may yield important research, policy, and practice implications. Here, we assessed the prevalence of depression and anxiety symptoms and their associations with psychosocial and sociodemographic variables in a large sample of school-going youths in Kenya.

Method

Measures of depression (PHQ-8) and anxiety(GAD-7), social support, perseverance, optimism, perceived control, connectedness, happiness, purpose in life, and gratitude were administered to 1,498 Kenyan adolescents (55.47% male) aged 13-to-21 years (M age = 16.33) in mid-2021when schools re-opened after the COVID–19 school closures.  

Results

Some 42.46% and 37.56% youth met the clinical cut-off for elevated depression and anxiety symptoms, respectively. Adolescents whose academic performance was not satisfactory endorsed higher depressive and anxiety symptoms. Female adolescents and those who lived with a single parent endorsed higher depressive and anxiety symptoms, respectively. Subjective well-being and perceived control were negatively associated with depressive symptoms.

Conclusion

The prevalence of depression and anxiety symptoms among Kenyan adolescents has remained steady when compared to pre-pandemic studies. However, symptoms were high when compared to those of adolescents in other countries during COVID-19. This study also identified potential important risk and protective factors.

Keywords: Adolescents, well-being, depression, anxiety, Sub Saharan Africa

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