Self-Reported Mental Health Problems Among Adolescents in Developing Countries: Results from an International Pilot Sample

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Objective:To evaluate the prevalence, pattern, and sociodemographic correlates of self-reported mental health problems among a pilot sample of adolescents from 5 developing countries and to speculate the methodology and design of a larger scale study.Methods:The sociodemographic questionnaire was developed based on extant literature on the sociodemographic correlates of mental health problems among adolescents. Additional information about the socioeconomic status of parents/caregivers of the participants was obtained using the Family Affluence Scale (FAS). Mental health problems were evaluated using the Strength and Difficulty Questionnaire (SDQ). Logistic regression analysis was done to determine independent sociodemographic correlates of mental health problems.Results:A total of 1894 adolescents sampled from 5 countries completed the study. The prevalence of self-reported mental health problems was 10.5% (range, 5.8–15) with conduct and emotional problems being the most prevalent. When the raw total-SDQ scores were adjusted for age, gender, and FAS scores, there was a statistically significant difference in the mean scores among the adolescents from different countries (F = 17.23, p < .001). After controlling for all potential sociodemographic confounders, living with single parents or other nonparent care givers, having a chronic disabling physical condition, lower maternal education, and coming from a family in the lower FAS-score category were all independently associated with higher odds of mental health problems.Conclusions:Study has added to the currently limited data on prevalence of mental health problems among adolescents in developing countries. It further established that socioeconomic and family factors still play a major role in the mental health of children irrespective of region of the world. Significant but surmountable methodological issues for a larger scale study were raised.

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