Depression and Anxiety Symptoms, Social Support, and Demographic Factors Among Kenyan High School Students

Tom L. Osborn*, Katherine E. Venturo-Conerly, Akash R. Wasil, Jessica L. Schleider, John R. Weisz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Objectives: Depression and anxiety are leading causes of youth disability worldwide, yet our understanding of these conditions in Sub-Saharan African (SSA) youths is limited. Research has been sparse in SSA, and prevalence rates and correlates of these conditions remain scarcely investigated. To help address these gaps, this cross-sectional study assessed the prevalence of adolescent depression and anxiety symptoms in a community sample of high school students in Kenya. We also examined associations between those symptoms and psychosocial and sociodemographic factors. Methods: We administered self-report measures of depression and anxiety symptoms, social support, gratitude, growth mindsets, and life satisfaction to 658 students (51.37% female) aged 13–19. Results: Only the measures of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder Screen-7), and social support (Multidimensional Scale for Perceived Social Support Scale) showed adequate internal consistency (Cronbach alpha > 0.70) in the study sample. Findings with these measures among Kenyan youths showed high levels of depression symptoms (45.90% above clinical cutoff) and anxiety symptoms (37.99% above clinical cutoff). Older adolescents reported higher depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as lower social support than younger adolescents. Females reported more anxiety than males, and members of minority tribes reported more anxiety than members of majority tribes. Conclusions: This study highlights the high prevalence of adolescent internalizing symptoms in Kenyan high school students, identifies important correlates of these symptoms, and illustrates the need for culturally appropriate assessment tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1432-1443
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Adolescents
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Global Mental Health
  • Social support
  • Sub Saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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