Background: Medical and socio-economic uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have had a substantial impact on mental health. This study aimed to systematically review the existing literature reporting the prevalence of anxiety and depression among the general populace in Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic and examine associated risk factors.

Methods: A systematic search of the following databases African Journal Online, CINAHL, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science was conducted from database inception until 30th September 2021. Studies reporting the prevalence of anxiety and/or depression among the general populace in African settings were considered for inclusion. The methodological quality of included studies was assessed using the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Meta-analyses on prevalence rates were conducted using Comprehensive Meta-analysis software.

Results: Seventy-eight primary studies (62,380 participants) were identified from 2,325 studies via electronic and manual searches. Pooled prevalence rates for anxiety (47%, 95% CI: 40–54%, I2 = 99.19%) and depression (48%, 95% CI: 39–57%, I2 = 99.45%) were reported across Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sex (female) and history of existing medical/chronic conditions were identified as major risk factors for anxiety and depression.

Conclusions: The evidence put forth in this synthesis demonstrates the substantial impact of the pandemic on the pervasiveness of these psychological symptoms among the general population. Governments and stakeholders across continental Africa should therefore prioritize the allocation of available resources to institute educational programs and other intervention strategies for preventing and ameliorating universal distress and promoting psychological wellbeing.

Systematic Review Registration: https://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/display_record.php?ID=CRD42021228023, PROSPERO CRD42021228023.


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/]. The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Cite as

Bello, U., Kannan, P., Chutiyami, M., Salihu, D., Cheong, A., Miller, T., Pun, J., Muhammad, A., Mahmud, F., Jalo, H., Ali, M., Kolo, M., Sulaiman, S., Lawan, A., Bello, I., Gambo, A. & Winser, S. 2022, 'Prevalence of anxiety and depression among the general population in Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic: a systematic review and meta-analysis', Frontiers in Public Health, 10, article no: 814981. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2022.814981

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Last updated: 08 August 2022
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