The prevalence of mental health problems in sub-Saharan adolescents: A systematic review

Astrid Jorns-Presentati, Ann Kathrin Napp, Anja S. Dessauvagie, Dan J. Stein, Deborah Jonker, Elsie Breet, Weslin Charles, Renier L. Swart, Mari Lahti, Sharain Suliman, Ronelle Jansen, Leigh L. Van Den Heuvel, Soraya Seedat, Gunter Groen

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82 Scopus citations


Background and purpose Most research regarding child and adolescent mental health prevention and promotion in low-and middle-income countries is undertaken in high-income countries. This systematic review set out to synthesise findings from epidemiological studies, published between 2008 and 2020, documenting the prevalence of mental health problems in adolescents from across sub-Saharan Africa. Methods A systematic search of multiple databases (MEDLINE, PsycINFO, Scopus) and Google Scholar was conducted guided by the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Reviewer's manual for systematic reviews of observational epidemiological studies. Studies included reported prevalence outcomes for adolescents aged 10-19 using either clinical interviews or standardized questionnaires to assess psychopathology. Clinical samples were excluded. Results The search yielded 1 549 records of which 316 studies were assessed for eligibility and 51 met the inclusion criteria. We present a qualitative synthesis of 37 of these 51 included articles. The other 14 studies reporting prevalence rates for adolescents living with HIV are published elsewhere. The prevalence of depression, anxiety disorders, emotional and behavioural difficulties, posttraumatic stress and suicidal behaviour in the general adolescent population and selected at-risk groups in 16 sub-Saharan countries (with a total population of 97 616 adolescents) are reported.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0251689
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5 May
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


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