Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Problems in Nigeria Prevalence

Studies that screened for general childhood psychopathology in Nigeria have documented a prevalence rate between 15% and 19% (Abiodun 1993; Adelekan et al. 1999; Akpan et al. 2010). This falls within the range of 13—20% that has been reported for sub-Saharan Africa in systematic reviews (Cortina et al. 2012). The figures are however much higher than those from developed countries. For instance, in the BELLA study, which used a nationally representative sample in Germany, the overall prevalence estimate of childhood psychopathology was 6.6% (Ravens-Sieberer et al. 2008). A national survey of mental health problems among children and adolescents in the UK also reported a prevalence rate of 10% (Meltzer et al. 2000). These differences could be reflective of a true higher prevalence, but could also be due to the fact that the few CAMH epidemiological studies from Nigeria are limited in their representativeness and have employed relatively small sample sizes. Other factors that might have led to these results include different expectations of child behaviour norms, cultural difference in perception of psychopathology and problems with translation of instruments across cultures.

Other epidemiological studies in Nigeria have focused on the prevalence of specific childhood mental disorders like anxiety and depressive disorders, substance use and traumatic exposure/posttraumatic stress. Adewuya et al.

(2007) found a 12-month prevalence rate of 15% DSM-IV anxiety disorders among school-going adolescents in a semi-urban setting in Nigeria. This is comparable to the 18% that has been documented in Europe and North America (Essau et al. 2000; Kessler et al. 2005). Using the Patient Health Questionnaire (a non-diagnostic screening instrument), Fatiregun and Kumapayi (2014) reported a 21% prevalence rate of depressive symptoms among a cohort of school-going adolescents in Nigeria. Similarly, high prevalence rates have been reported in studies from developed countries (Patten et al. 1997; Wight et al. 2004).

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