Factors associated with depression among young female migrants in Ethiopia

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Background: Mental health disorders represent a significant share of disease burden for adolescents and young people and depression is among the leading causes of morbidity within this age group. With rural-urban migration increasing in many settings, and young females being among the main migrants, few studies have examined the impact of such major transitions on mental health. This paper measures levels of depression among young women who are rural-urban migrants in Ethiopia, as well as factors associated with depression. Methods: This was part of a largescale study of urban migrant females aged 15–24 in Ethiopia, which took place in seven cities. Multiple categories of migrants were interviewed. We used modified PHQ-9 questions to measure depression and logistic regression models to examine its association with various characteristics including patterns of migration and violence. In all, 4,495 migrant females were interviewed. Results: Twenty-one percent of migrant young women displayed symptoms of moderate or severe depression. Symptoms of depression were more common among commercial sex workers (37%) than among other categories of migrants. Factors significantly associated with depression were being in commercial sex work (OR 1.70), migrating before age 15 (OR 1.37), using a broker to find a job (OR 1.53), experiencing forced first sex (OR 2.16) and experiencing beating in the last three months (OR 2.16). Conclusion: This study reveals significant levels of depression among young women in Ethiopia who are rural-urban migrants. The study highlights the need to expand measurement of mental health conditions in health surveys and underscores the need for additional investments in mental health infrastructure, programs and services for marginalized groups in sub-Saharan Africa.