African Health Sciences

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Depressive symptoms, sexual activity, and substance use among adolescents in Kampala, Uganda

Michael B Henry, Sabrina Bakeera Kitaka, Kizza Lubega, Sara A Snyder, Philip LaRussa, Betsy Pfeffer


Background: Adolescents experience high rates of depression, initiation of sexual activity, and substance use.
Objectives: To better understand the demographics of adolescents presenting to an adolescent clinic in Uganda, and to elucidate which factors are associated with depressive symptoms, sexual initiation, and substance use.
Methods: A retrospective review was performed on intake forms obtained during interviews with adolescents presenting to the Makerere/Mulago Columbia Adolescent Health Clinic (MMCAH) in Kampala, Uganda.
Results: Depressive symptoms in adolescents were correlated with having a chronic illness (p=.026), and reported poor quality of home life (p<.001). Initiation of sexual activity was also correlated with chronic illness (p=.008) and poor quality of home life (p=.006). Substance use was correlated with maternal death (p=.041), chronic illness (p=.038), and substance use among family members (p<.001) and friends (p<.001).
Conclusions: Knowing the aforementioned risk factors can help us better understand the needs of adolescents presenting to
MMCAH, and allows us to develop targeted interventions aimed at decreasing health risks in Kampala’s adolescent population.

Keywords: Depressive symptoms, sexual activity, substance use, adolescents, Uganda.
AJOL African Journals Online