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Higher rates of depressive symptoms in Sri Lankan Students: Implications for health promotion

Bilesha Perera, MSc, Prevention Resource Center, Indiana University, Room 110, Creative Arts Building, 2735, East 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47408, 812 855 1237, pperera@indiana.edu, Mohammad Rahim Torabi, PhD, MPH, Dept. of Applied Health Science, Indiana University, HPER 116, 1025 E. 7th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, and Ramani Perera, MPhil(c), Department of Psychiatry, University of Sri Jayawardanapura, Gangodawila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka.

Introduction: Understanding nature and prevalence of mental disorders and disabilities in school children are imperative to formulate strategies and policies in health promotion targeted at this population. There are few empirical data pertaining to mental health of school children in the country. Method: The Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression scale (CES-D), a 20 item self-report symptom rating scale, was administered to a convenience sample of 436 (49.2%) male and 450 (50.8%) female students in southern Sri Lanka. Results: The mean age of the sample was 16.4 years (SD= 1.22). Fifty three percent of male and 58 % of female students reported elevated depressive symtomatology. The rates of elevated depressive symptomatology increased as age increased. Living in urban settings (OR=1.35, 95% CI: 1.02, 1.79), and father being a heavy alcohol user (OR = 2.71, 95% CI: 1.38, 5.28) were associated with elevated depressive symtomatology of the respondents. Conclusions: The reported depressive symtomatology rates in this sample are among the highest of such rates identified in similar student populations across the globe. Urbanization and the changes of lifestyle patterns of people over the last few decades may have contributed to increased depressive symptoms among children in the country, but further longitudinal research is necessary to identify such cause-effect relationships. Given that Sri Lanka has one of the highest teenage suicide rates in the world, educational and health authorities should pay greater attention to mental health issues of school children in Sri Lanka.

Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to

Keywords: School Health, Child/Adolescent Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

School-Based Mental Health Programs and Services

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA