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Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2013 Jul 10;7(1):21. doi: 10.1186/1753-2000-7-21.

Prevalence, comorbidity and predictors of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents in rural north-eastern Uganda.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, P,O,BOX 7072, Kampala, Uganda. cathyabbo@chs.mak.ac.ug.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Child and adolescent anxiety disorders are the most prevalent form of childhood psychopathology. Research on child and adolescent anxiety disorders has predominantly been done in westernized societies. There is a paucity of data on the prevalence, comorbidity, and predictors of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents in non-western societies including those in sub-Saharan Africa. This paper investigates the prevalence, comorbidity, and predictors of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents in north-eastern Uganda.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine the prevalence of DSM-IV anxiety disorders, as well as comorbidity patterns and predictors in children and adolescents aged 3 to 19 years in north-eastern Uganda.

METHODS:

Four districts (Lira, Tororo, Kaberamaido and Gulu) in rural north-eastern Uganda participated in this study. Using a multi-stage sampling procedure, a sample of 420 households with children aged 3-19 years from each district was enrolled into the study. The MINI International Neuropsychiatric Interview for children and adolescents (MINI KID) was used to assess for psychiatric disorders in 1587 of 1680 respondents.

RESULTS:

The prevalence of anxiety disorders was 26.6%, with rates higher in females (29.7%) than in males (23.1%). The most common disorders in both males and females were specific phobia (15.8%), posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (6.6%) and separation anxiety disorder (5.8%). Children below 5 years of age were significantly more likely to have separation anxiety disorder and specific phobias, while those aged between 14-19 were significantly more likely to have PTSD. Anxiety disorders were more prevalent among respondents with other psychiatric disorders; in respondents with two or more co-morbid psychiatric disorders the prevalence of anxiety disorders was 62.1%. Predictors of anxiety disorders were experience of war trauma (OR = 1.93, p < 0.001) and a higher score on the emotional symptom scale of the SDQ (OR = 2.58, p < 0.001). Significant socio-demograghic associations of anxiety disorders were found for female gender, guardian unemployment, living in permanent housing, living without parents, and having parents without education.

CONCLUSION:

The prevalence of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents in rural north-eastern Uganda is high, but consistent in terms of gender ratio and progression over time with a range of prior work in other contexts. Patterns of comorbidity and predictors of anxiety disorders in this setting are also broadly consistent with previous findings from western community studies. Both psychosocial stressors and exposure to war trauma are significant predictors of anxiety disorders.Prevention and treatment strategies need to be put in place to address the high prevalence rates of anxiety disorders in children and adolescents in Uganda.

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