Psychology, health & medicine 2017 03 14() 1-12 doi 10.1080/13548506.2017.1300669
Poor mental health in adolescents has shown associations with engagement in other risk behaviours. However, evidence of this association in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly South Africa, is lacking. This study examines the associations between pertinent risk behaviours and feelings of sadness or hopelessness amongst a nationally representative sample of South African school going adolescents. Data was analysed from the South African Youth Risk Behaviour Survey 2011 (n=10,997), a cross-sectional national survey among grades 8-11 school learners. Logistic regression examined the association of demographic, substance use, violent behaviour, sexual activity and suicidal plans and attempts with the primary outcome, feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Having feelings of sadness or hopelessness was significantly associated with more senior grades, being bullied (AOR:1.67, 95% CI: 1.42-1.96), being assaulted by a partner (1.33 [1.05-1.68]), forced sex (1.78 [1.37-2.32]); gang membership (1.32 [1.06-1.65]), binge drinking (1.37 [1.14-1.65]), ever having sex (1.23 [1.02-1.47]), having ≥1 partner/s in preceding three months (1.25 [1.02-1.53]), having made a plan to attempt suicide (2.50 [1.95-3.21]) and suicide attempt (1.49 [1.21-1.85]). Adolescents in South Africa are experiencing a multiple burden of risk. Health promotion strategies targeting adolescent mental health and risk behaviours need to be developed and implemented in a timely and comprehensive manner.