Prevalence and correlates of psychological distress among 13–14 year old adolescent girls in North Karnataka, South India: a cross-sectional study

Tara Beattie , Ravi Prakash, April Mazzuca, Leslie Kelly, Prakash Javalkar, T. Raghavendra, Satyanarayana Ramanaik, Martine Collumbien, Stephen Moses, Lori Heise, Shajy Isac, Charlotte Watts BMC Public Health , 2019; Read the full paper online

Mental health disorders among adolescents have emerged as a major public health issue in many low and middle-income countries, including India. There is a paucity of research on the determinants of psychological distress, particularly among the poorest girls in the poorest communities. 

This paper, from the Samata intervention, assesses the prevalence and correlates of different indicators of psychological distress among 13–14 year old low caste girls in rural, south India. 


The researchers found that more than one third of girls reported having no hope for the future, with some contemplating suicide. They identified several determinants of psychological distress including:

  • sexual abuse, 
  • lack of parental emotional support,
  • 'eve-teasing' (sexual harassment by men and adolescent boys),
  • a harassing or abusive school environment,
  • being frequently absent or having dropped out of school.


As well as having important development benefits, interventions that address the upstream structural and gender-norms based determinants of poor mental health, and provide adolescent services for girls who require treatment and support, should have important benefits for girls’ psychological wellbeing. 

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