Risk and protective factors associated with the mental health of young adults in Kabul, Afghanistan

Qais Alemi, Carl Stempel, Patrick Koga, Susanne Montgomery, Valerie Smith, Gagandeep Sandhu, Bianca Villegas, Jessica Requejo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: We examined the mental health status and severity of psychological distress symptoms among young adults residing in Kabul, Afghanistan and determined how such outcomes might be influenced by an array of risk and protective factors. Methods: A cross-sectional study design was adopted using convenience, snowball, and street-intercept recruitment techniques. Surveys were completed by 232 young adults between 18 and 35 years of age in September 2015. We used both etic (mental health component of the SF-8) and emic (Afghan Symptom Checklist) measures of mental health and psychological distress, respectively, and regressed these outcome measures against socio-demographic, physical health, and psychological variables (resilience, hope-optimism) using ordinary least squares (OLS) regression methods. Results: We found that poor mental health is common in this sample, affecting 75% of participants; and, that distress symptoms (depressive, anxiety, and somatoform symptoms) occur often. Regression models were consistent in showing higher education as a risk-factor for both outcomes, whereas, age, ethnicity, and income significantly contributed only to the ASCL model as risk-factors. However, both outcomes were strongly influenced by protective factors such as good physical health status and higher perceived hope-optimism. Conclusions: Our study provides further evidence of how current economic conditions in Kabul contribute to poor mental health and symptom severity, but also show how positive physical health and perceived hope-optimism can be protective. This study provides support for developing culturally-competent policies and interventions that build on protective factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number71
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 21 2018


  • Afghanistan
  • Distress
  • Hope
  • Mental health
  • Resilience
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Risk and protective factors associated with the mental health of young adults in Kabul, Afghanistan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this