A report from a study conducted by Makerere University’s School of Public Health and Butabika Hospital has revealed that one in every three Ugandans have a form of mental disorder or sickness, lifting the lid on how ‘mad’ the country might be.
Released as Uganda marked the World Mental Health Day to parrot the obvious fact that mental health is a fundamental human right, the study’s findings imply that of every three people one meets on the streets or interacts with in homes or public places, one may be struggling with a mental disorder. The number translates in 3 out of every 10 people or 30 per cent.
The research team was headed by Dr Juliet Nakku, the Executive Director of Butabika National Referral Mental Hospital, as the principal investigator. The team also had Dr Fredrick Makumbi, an associate professor at, as a co-principal investigator, and Rose Kisa, a research fellow at Makerere University.
The study sampled 2,067 people from the districts of Bushenyi, Kapchorwa, Butambala and Adjumani, representing western, eastern, central and northern regions of Uganda. The sample included 1,366 learners in 33 schools.
Conducted between March and September 2023, the study’s participants were drawn from communities, schools and primary healthcare facilities.
According to Dr Makumbi, 33 of every 100 adults interviewed in communities had severe anxiety while 18 out of 100 had moderately severe or severe depression.
The Makerere University associate professor also revealed that drug abuse, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, poverty, head injuries, work related stress, school related stress and relationship related stress were the major triggers of mental health disorders. Up to seven out of 100 Ugandans interviewed were engaged in harmful use of alcohol and alcohol dependence.
The study also revealed a shocking level of mental disorders among school children. According to Dr Nakku, one in three children interviewed had emotional problems, a figure that it three times higher than the UK’s national average. The lead researcher was worried that these high rates of mental disorders among learners affect both home life and academic lives, limiting achievement levels.
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