Research Nugget

Non-Communicable Disease Comorbidity Development in Young People

Youth in South Africa face a myriad of challenges, among those being high rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as obesity, hypertension, and depression. The prevalence of these diseases differ by sex, age and socioeconomic status and can lead to other infectious diseases and non-communicable disease comorbidities (NCDC).

Looking at socio-economic factors which are associated with the development of a second NCD or comorbidity, a NRF-funded study found that:

  • Young people already suffering with NCDs who are neither in school, university nor employed are at a higher risk of developing a comorbidity. For this study, education and employment of young people were viewed as simultaneous processes whereby young people are not completing education prior to employment, but are instead gaining education and employment concurrently.
  • Females with one NCD were more likely to develop a NCDC. The burden of disease disproportionately affects females in South Africa, as rates of infection and NCDs are higher than those of males, with few exceptions.

The study used data collected from the South African National Income Dynamics Survey (NIDS) in 2007 and 2017. In 2007, 1 103 youths had one NCD and 297 had developed NCDCs by 2017.

While South Africa addresses the relatively new burden of NCDs in the population, the study calls for attention to be paid to social inequalities which are causing comorbidities in young people. Furthermore, it puts forward that screening for second and third NCDs in youth should be common practice in order to prevent the potential strain of NCDCs on the system.

Access the full paper published in the Journal of Public Health here.