Objectives: Psychological stress is an important determinant of health, including for mental well-being and sexual health. However, little is known about the prevalence and psychosocial and sexual health correlates of perceived stress among young people in South Africa, where elevated life-stressors are an important driver of health inequities. This study examines the association between intimate partner violence (IPV), psychosocial and sexual health, and perceived stress, by gender, among South African adolescents and young adults.Methods: Using baseline survey data from AYAZAZI, a cohort study enrolling youth (16–24 years) from Durban and Soweto, we used the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10) to measure the degree to which an individual perceives their life situations as unpredictable, uncontrollable, and overloaded. Possible scores range between 0 and 40; higher scores indicating higher perceived stress. Crude and adjusted gender-stratified linear regression models examined associations between sexual health factors, experiences (young women) and perpetration (young men) of IPV, anxiety (APA 3-item Scale, ≥2 = probable anxiety), and depression (10-item CES-D Scale, ≥10 = probable depression) and perceived stress. Multivariable models adjusted for age, income, sexual orientation, and financial dependents.Results: Of the 425 AYAZAZI participants, 60% were young women. At baseline, 71.5% were students//learners and 77.2% earned ≤ ZAR1600 per month (~id="mce_marker"00 USD). The PSS-10 had moderate reliability (α = 0.70 for young women, 0.64 for young men). Young women reported significantly higher mean PSS scores than young men [18.3 (6.3) vs. 16.4 (6.0)]. In adjusted linear regression models, among young women experiences of IPV (β = 4.33; 95% CI: 1.9, 6.8), probable depression (β = 6.63; 95% CI: 5.2, 8.1), and probable anxiety (β = 5.2; 95% CI: 3.6, 6.8) were significantly associated with higher PSS scores. Among young men, ever perpetrating IPV (β = 2.95; 95% CI: 0.3, 5.6), probable depression (β = 6; 95% CI: 4.3, 7.6), and probable anxiety (β = 3.9; 95% CI: 2.1, 5.8) were significantly associated with higher perceived stress.Conclusion: We found that probable depression, anxiety, perpetration of IPV among young men, and experiences of IPV among young women, were associated with higher perceived stress. Critical efforts are needed to address the gendered stressors of young men and women and implement services to address mental health within violence prevention efforts.
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