Over the past 10 years, awareness of the importance of promoting mental well-being has progressively increased in South Africa. Most of the awareness campaigns focused on depression, suicidal thoughts and suicide, and alcohol abuse.
Among the most important, but often underestimated disorders, there are those concerning the sphere of anxiety. The most recent estimates on this issue in South Africa come from a country-level study carried out in 2009.
A broader form of anxiety is a generalized anxiety disorder, which manifests itself as a constant state of non-specific worry.
The concern can involve various aspects: from the money needed to provide for one’s children, to hopes for the future. Generalized anxiety of this type is associated with increased substance abuse, a greater risk of contracting HIV, and the possibility of developing other mental disorders. This condition can reduce the economic well-being of those affected, as it can limit the ability to look for work or to leave to go to work.
Studies conducted globally have amply demonstrated that there are two triggers of anxiety: poverty and violence.
In South Africa, half of the adults live below the poverty line, meaning they earn less than R1,183 per month. At the same time, violence suffered during childhood or in the later stages of life is very widespread. A study of 15-17-year-olds revealed that 10% of boys and 15% of girls experienced sexual violence. Violence and related injuries are the second cause of years of life lost due to a disability in South Africa
Young people, especially those living in difficult contexts such as informal urban settlements, are at risk of developing a generalized anxiety disorder. This is because poverty and community violence are more widespread in these contexts than in others.
Studies on anxiety are few, despite being the most common mental disorder in South Africa.
Symptoms of generalized anxiety are greater among respondents who reported episodes of violence and conditions of extreme poverty. Addressing these two factors is critical to reducing mental illness and its impact on the future of individuals and potentially their children.
poverty, an experience of violence and negative events are key elements that contribute to the development of generalized anxiety disorder among young people living in informal urban settlements.
South Africa faces the broader structural problems that cause poor mental health, specifically poverty, unemployment, and violence.
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