Many Youth Rwandan Heads of Household Depressed

September 4, 2008

Orphaned youths heading households in Rwanda report high levels of depression and are more likely to feel depressed if feeling hunger, grief or socially marginalized, having few assets, or being in poor health, according to a study in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

THURSDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Orphaned youths heading households in Rwanda report high levels of depression and are more likely to feel depressed if feeling hunger, grief or socially marginalized, having few assets, or being in poor health, according to a study in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Neil W. Boris, M.D., from Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, and colleagues interviewed 539 individuals in an impoverished area of southeastern Rwanda who were the eldest member of their household where a youth 24 years old or younger was caring for at least one child. About three-quarters were subsistence farmers and less than 10 percent had attended school for six years or more.

The researchers found that the mean score on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale was 24.4, indicating moderate to severe symptoms of depression. Depression was associated with having three or fewer basic household assets (i.e., a mattress or a spare set of clothes, odds ratio 1.69), eating less than one meal per day (OR, 1.68), reporting fair or poor health (ORs, 1.32, 2.33, respectively), high levels of grief (OR, 2.67), parental death due to genocide (OR, 1.83), and not having a close friend (OR, 1.91).

"Orphaned youth who head households in rural Rwanda face many challenges and report high rates of depressive symptoms," Boris and colleagues conclude. "Interventions designed to go beyond improving food security and increasing household assets may be needed to reduce social isolation of youth heads of household."

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