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Systematic mapping on availability, extent and distribution of mental health research in Malawi

Genesis Chorwe-Sungani
Felix Chisoni
Ditress Nyirongo
Japhet Myaba
Anthony Sefasi
Jonas Sagawa
Grace Sibande
Costantine Chaima
Eluby N. Katola
Febbie Jamieson
Lucy Kululanga
Diana Jere


Background: Mental health research is essential in the implementation of evidence-based interventions. This can be impeded by unavailability or limited access to local evidence in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) such as Malawi.
Aim: The aim of this systematic mapping was to describe the availability, extent and distribution of mental health research conducted in Malawi.
Setting: The study was conducted at Kamuzu University of Health Sciences in Malawi.
Methods: A systematic search of four electronic databases from inception to September 2021 was carried out. All published and unpublished mental health studies in all languages were eligible for inclusion. Studies were screened against inclusion and exclusion criteria, and data were extracted, analysed and presented in tables and as a narrative synthesis.
Results: Cross-sectional studies (33.6%, n = 76) were found to be the most common study design for mental health research in Malawi. More studies were conducted on women (21.2%, n = 48) compared to men (1.3%, n = 3). Mental health research was concentrated in the southern region of the country (44.8%, n = 120) and in the three cities of Lilongwe (17.9%, n = 48), Blantyre (16.4%, n = 44) and Zomba (9.0%, n = 24).
Conclusion: This systematic mapping suggests that there are few studies on mental health in Malawi which are not equally distributed across the country. There is a pressing need to conduct more mental health research using robust designs across disciplines.
Contribution: Research on mental health is urgently needed to produce culturally acceptable data in Malawi.

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eISSN: 2078-6786
print ISSN: 1608-9685