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Cult Med Psychiatry. 2013 Mar;37(1):111-30. doi: 10.1007/s11013-012-9292-9.

Chewing over the future: khat consumption, anxiety, depression, and time among young men in Jimma, Ethiopia.

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  • 1Honors College, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, USA.


This article draws on qualitative and quantitative research to examine the relationship between the consumption of khat, symptoms of depression and anxiety and the experience of time among young men in urban Ethiopia. Young men claim that khat, a mild stimulant, both causes and alleviates symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, our quantitative data indicate that there is not a direct relationship between khat and symptoms of depression and anxiety. We analyze this apparent contradiction in terms of young men's experiences of time. Long-term ethnographic research indicates that khat consumption and mental distress have a close relationship with young men's temporal problems. In a context of high urban unemployment, young men struggle to negotiate overabundant amounts of unstructured time in the present and place themselves within a narrative in which they are progressing toward future aspirations. These temporal struggles generate symptoms of depression and anxiety. For young men, khat consumption functions to reposition them in relation to time, both in the present and the future. Ultimately, we argue that the relationship between khat and time has implications for the economic issues that underlie young people's symptoms of depression and anxiety.

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