Background. A previous paper (Abas & Broadhead, 1997)
reported that among 172 women
randomly selected from a Zimbabwean township 30·8% had a
depressive or anxiety disorder during
the previous year. Compared with London, the higher annual
prevalence of disorders in Harare
could mostly be accounted for by an excess of onset cases in the
study year (annual incidence of
depression 18%). This paper reports on the role of life events and
difficulties in the aetiology of
depression among these women.
Method. Randomly selected women (N=172) from a
township in Harare were interviewed with a
Zimbabwean modification of the Bedford College Life Events and
Difficulties Schedule (LEDS).
Results. Events and difficulties proved critical in
provoking the onset of depression in Harare. Far
more events occurring in Harare were severe or disruptive. Furthermore,
a proportion of the Harare
severe events were more threatening than have been described in London.
As in London, certain
types of severe event were particularly depressogenic, i.e. those
involving the woman's humiliation,
her entrapment in an ongoing difficult situation, or bereavement.
However, more severe events in
Harare involved these specific dimensions.
Conclusions. Results indicate a common mechanism for the
development of depression, as defined
by international criteria, between Zimbabwe and London. The high
frequency of severe events, and
their especially adverse qualities, offer an explanation for the
high incidence of depression in Harare.