Social determinants of psychological distress in Sierra Leone

Kanykey Jailobaeva*, Rebecca Horn, Stella Arakelyan, Karin Diaconu, Ajaratu Kamara, Alastair Ager

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

PURPOSE: Growing evidence demonstrates that daily stressors such as family violence, unemployment, and living conditions play an important part in causing psychological distress. This paper investigates the impact of distressing events and day-to-day living conditions on psychological distress in the fragile context of Sierra Leone.

METHODS: A cross-sectional survey was conducted with 904 adults (454 men, 450 women) in 5 districts of Sierra Leone. The survey questionnaire comprised the Sierra Leone Psychological Distress scale and measures of demographic variables and personal characteristics, current life circumstances and potentially distressing events.

RESULTS: Multiple regression results identified three factors to be the greatest contributors to psychological distress: family conflict (β = 0.185, p < 0.001) and inability to afford basic needs (β = 0.175, p < 0.001). Gender differences were evident: factors predicting men's psychological distress included severe sickness or injury (β = 0.203, p < 0.001) and being unable to afford basic needs (β = 0.190, p < 0.001); for women, predicting factors were family conflict (β = 0.212, p < 0.001), perceived poor health (β = 0.192, p < 0.001) and inability to afford basic needs (β = 0.190, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSION: Initiatives to promote good mental health and psychosocial wellbeing in Sierra Leone should focus on enhancing income-generating and employment opportunities, promoting access to education, and strengthening family relationships.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1781-1793
Number of pages13
JournalSocial psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology
Issue number9
Early online date19 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Fragile setting
  • Mental health
  • Psychological distress
  • Sierra Leone
  • Social determinants


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