Depression and anxiety symptoms, social support, and demographic factors among Kenyan high school students

Transforming mental health for all

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 Screen7), 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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