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BMC Int Health Hum Rights. 2013 Apr 5;13:19. doi: 10.1186/1472-698X-13-19.

Prevalence and risk factors of depression in childhood and adolescence as seen in four districts of North-Eastern Uganda.

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  • 1MRC/UVRI Uganda Research Unit on AIDS, Senior EDCTP Fellowship, P.O. Box 49, Entebbe/Cape Town, Uganda, South Africa.



Millions of African children are having to grow up under harsh and adverse psychosocial conditions but it's not fully understood how this negative psychosocial environment is affecting their mental health. This paper examines the prevalence and risk factors of depression in childhood and adolescence as seen in a community sample derived from four disadvantaged districts in north-eastern Uganda.


1587 children were assessed using a structured instrument administered by trained psychiatric nurses to collect data on psychiatric disorders (DSM IV criteria), adverse psychosocial factors and socio-demographic factors.


The point prevalence of depressive disorder syndromes (DDS) in this study was 8.6% (95% CI 7.2%-10.1%) with a point prevalence for major depressive episode of 7.6% (95% CI 6.3%-9.0%) and dysthymia of 2.1% (95% CI 1.5%-3.0%). At multiple logistic regression, the factors that were independently significantly associated with DDS were: district (representing ecological factors), nature of living arrangements, domestic violence and psychiatric co-morbidities/psychiatric problems of emotional distress (assessed by the SDQ), suicidality and marginally, anxiety disorder syndromes, eating disorder syndromes, motor disorder syndromes and behavioral and developmental disorder syndromes (the later being protective against depression).


Disadvantaged north-eastern Uganda had a high prevalence of childhood depressive disorders. Ecological factors, markers of the quality of the child-principal caregiver relationship (nature of living arrangements and domestic violence) and the presence of psychiatric co-morbidities/psychiatric problems were the important independent determinants of childhood depression in this study.

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