Research Nugget

Mental Health Risk in SA

Mental health problems among adults are a growing public health concern, and middle-income countries such as South Africa are disproportionally affected. Using a large scale, nationally representative, weighted survey, researchers at the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Human Development assessed the prevalence of probable depression, anxiety, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and explored associations between probable depression, anxiety, ACEs, socio-economic status, and demographic characteristics.

The study found that:

  • The prevalence of probable depression among respondents in South Africa varies significantly across all nine provinces with the Northern Cape reporting the highest prevalence of both probable depression and anxiety.
  • Probable depression and anxiety were more frequently reported among adults who were:
    • Retired and older than 65 years of age,
    • Widowed, divorced, or separated
    • Living in metropolitan areas; and
    • Only had primary school education.
  • Anxiety was found to increase the odds of probable depression.

Despite the high prevalence of mental health problems across South Africa, few mental health services exist at primary health care facilities. The study indicates that one in every four adults are likely to require mental health services, however only one in four South Africans with a severe mental disorder, or 27%, will receive treatment.

The researchers recommend that intervention and counselling programmes are recommended for older, widowed, divorced, or separated respondents, especially in provinces with a relatively higher prevalence of depression, with a specific focus on those less educated and who fall into a lower socio-economic group.

Read the detailed summary of the study is available here