The Continued Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Education and Mental Health Among Sub-Saharan African Adolescents

J Adolesc Health. 2023 Apr;72(4):535-543. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2022.11.012. Epub 2022 Nov 28.


Purpose: This multicountry survey assessed the levels and the determinants of the impacts of the pandemic on education and mental health among adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa and the potential factors that may exacerbate these adverse impacts.

Methods: A phone survey was conducted among adolescents in nine diverse areas in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania between July and December 2021. Approximately 300 adolescents per area and 2,803 adolescents in total were included. The survey collected information on adolescents' sociodemographic characteristics, current COVID-19 preventive measures, and the impacts of the pandemic on daily activities, education, and mental health. Log-binomial models were used to calculate the adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) for determinants of education and mental health outcomes.

Results: Overall, 17% of the adolescents were not receiving any education. Compared to boys, girls were 15% more likely than boys to lack fully in-person education (aPR: 1.15; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.02, 1.30). Rural residence was associated with 2.7 times the prevalence of not currently receiving any education (aPR: 2.68; 95% CI: 2.23, 3.22). Self-reported experience of the current impacts of the pandemic on daily activities was associated with a higher prevalence of possible psychological distress (aPR: 1.86; 95% CI: 1.55, 2.24), high anxiety level (aPR: 3.37; 95% CI: 2.25, 5.06), and high depression level (aPR: 3.01; 95% CI: 2.05, 4.41).

Discussion: The COVID-19 pandemic presents continued challenges to adolescents' education and mental health. Multisectoral efforts are needed to ensure that adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa do not fall further behind due to the pandemic.

Keywords: Adolescents; COVID-19; Education; Mental health; Sub-Saharan Africa; Telephone surveys.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Pandemics
  • Tanzania