Prevalence and Correlates of Mental Distress Among Working Adults in Ethiopia

Bizu Gelaye1, 2, *, Seblewengel Lemma3, Negussie Deyassa4, Yonas Bahretibeb4, Markos Tesfaye5, Yemane Berhane3, Michelle A Williams1
1 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
2 Department of Epidemiology, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA, USA
3 Addis Continental Institute of Public Health, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
4 Faculty of Medicine, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
5 Department of Psychiatry, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia

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© Gelaye et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave, Kresge 501, Boston, MA 02115 USA; Tel: 617-432-1071; E-mail:



To evaluate the prevalence of mental distress and its correlates among working Ethiopian adults.


This cross-sectional study of 2,180 individuals (1,316 men and 864 women) was conducted among working adults in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. A structured questionnaire was used to collect information on socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics of participants. Mental distress was assessed using the self-reporting questionnaire (SRQ). Logistic regression was employed to estimate adjusted odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).


The prevalence of mental distress in the study sample was 17.7% (25.9% in women and 12.4% in men). Younger participants (age ≤24 years) had the highest prevalence of mental distress (35.5% in women and 16.7% in men). The odds of mental distress was 2.47-fold higher among women as compared with men (OR=2.47, 95% CI 1.97-3.09). Participants reporting excellent health status had a 50% reduced odds of mental distress (OR=0.47; 95%CI: 0.38-0.59); and moderate alcohol consumption was associated with a slight increased odds of mental distress (OR=1.26; 95%CI: 1.00-1.67).


A high prevalence of mental distress was observed among working adults in Ethiopia. Our findings suggest that the workforce institutions should provide targeted prevention and intervention programs to improve the mental health state of their employees. National mental health policy that clearly outlines and addresses mental distress among working adults is also warranted.

Keywords:: Mental Distress, Ethiopia, Mental Health, Working Adults, SRQ.