Objective: In this paper, we aim to provide a systematic review and meta-analysis on the prevalence rates of mental health symptoms of anxiety, depression, and insomnia among the major populations during the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa .
Design: A systematic review and meta-analysis . Data sources: We search and include articles using PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, PsycINFO, and medRxiv databases between Feb 202 and Feb 6th , 2021 . Eligibility criteria and data analysis: The meta-analysis targets the prevalence rates of mental health symptoms of major populations including frontline/general healthcare workers (HCWs), the general adult population, and medical students during the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa . To estimate the prevalence rates of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, we pooled data using random-effects meta-analyses .
Results: In this meta-analysis, we identify and include 28 studies and 32 independent samples from 12 countries with a total of 15,072 participants in Africa . Ethiopia (7) and Egypt (6) had the largest number of studies . While many countries including, but not limited to, Algeria, Kenya, and Ghana had a high number of COVID-19 cases, as many as three quarters of African countries have no studies . The pooled prevalence of anxiety in 27 studies was 37% (95% CI : 31-43%, I2 = 99.0 %) and that of depression in 24 studies was 45% (95% CI : 36-51%, I2 = 99.5 %) and that of insomnia in 9 studies was 28% (95% CI : 20-41%, I2 = 99.2 %). The pooled prevalence rates of anxiety, depression, and insomnia in North Africa (44% , 55%, and 31%, respectively) are higher than the rates in Sub-Saharan Africa (31% , 30%, and 24%, respectively). Our analysis indicated high heterogeneity and varying prevalence rates of mental health symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa .
Discussion: We discuss our findings that a) a scarcity of studies in several African countries with a high number of COVID-19 cases, b) high heterogeneity among the studies, c) the extent of prevalence of mental health symptoms in Africa to be high, and d) the pattern of mental health symptoms in Africa differs from elsewhere, i.e., more African adults suffer from depression rather than anxiety and insomnia during COVID 19 compared to adult population in other countries or regions . Hence, our findings carry crucial implications for healthcare organizations and future research to enable evidence-based medicine in Africa . Our findings also call for increased scholarly attention on Africa, the least studied continent with a limited amount of research on mental health symptoms under the COVID 19 pandemic . Keywords: Mental Health; Prevalence; Pandemic; General Population; Healthcare Workers; Anxiety; Depression; Insomnia Trial registration: CRD42020224458