Int J Soc Psychiatry. 2022 Jul 28:207640221114252. doi: 10.1177/00207640221114252. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: South Africa (SA) has one of the highest rates of youth unemployment and youth who are not in employment, education or training (NEET), even higher among Black South Africans. SA’s NEET rates are 3 times those of UK; 5.4 times of Germany; 1.3 times of Brazil; and 2.5 times of Malaysia. Given that youths between 15 and 24 years of age make up 24% of the total population, these are significant challenges for the economy and further fuel the cyclical, pervasive and enduring nature of poverty. We hypothesised that rural youth who are NEET would have a greater prevalence of mental disorders and higher rates of substance use compared to their non-NEET counterparts. The objective of the study is to determine the differences in rates of psychological distress and substance use between NEET and non-NEET rural African 14- to 24-year-old young men.
METHODS: The study took place in a remote and rural district municipality in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. We divided the district’s five sub-municipalities into two clusters (large and small) and randomly selected one from each cluster for inclusion in the study. We further randomly selected wards from each sub-municipality and then rural settlements from each ward, for inclusion in the study. We recruited young men as part of a larger study to explore sociocultural factors important in gender-based violence in rural SA. We compared 15- to 19-year old and 20- to 24-year old youth NEET and non-NEET on rates of psychological distress symptoms (depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, hopelessness and worthlessness) and substance misuse (including alcohol, cannabis, other recreational drugs) using a Multivariate Analysis of Variance (MANOVA) statistics at p < .005 level of significance level.
RESULTS: About 23% of the 355 male participants were NEET. There were no statistically significant differences in psychological distress or substance use between youth NEET and non-NEET, controlling for age.
CONCLUSION: The study highlights difficult transitions to post-secondary education and work for Black youth in rural SA where opportunities for employment are limited. Education, training and employment appear to offer limited benefit.