Prevalence of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression Among Internally Displaced Persons in Mogadishu-Somalia

Mustafa Ali, Teresia Mutavi, John Maina Mburu, and Muthoni Mathai

Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, Volume 19 (2023)


This article estimates the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression among IDPs in Somalia and examines the factors associated with these psychiatric conditions. There are an estimated 2.6 million IDPs in Somalia due to armed conflict and environmental disasters, of whom an estimated 600,000 are living in the capital city of Mogadishu. 

The authors conducted a survey of 401 IDPs in Mogadishu in early 2021 selected through multistage random sampling process. Most participants were women (83 percent), married (69 percent), had no formal education (65 percent), and unemployed (66 percent). A quarter of participants reported a positive family history of mental illness, and 80 percent had been displaced more than once. 

The Harvard Trauma Questionnaire was used to estimate levels of trauma exposure and PTSD, and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist-25 was used to estimate prevalence of depression. Multivariate and bivariate analyses were undertaken to analyze the association between demographic and displacement variables and the outcomes of PTSD and depression. 

Main findings: 

  • There were high levels of depression and PTSD among IDPs. More than half (59 percent) of participants met the symptom criteria of depression and nearly a third (32 percent) met the symptom criteria for PTSD.  
  • Most IDPs had experienced a high frequency of trauma exposure. 16 percent had experienced 0-4 traumatic events, 33 percent had experienced 59 traumatic events, 22 percent had experienced 10-14 traumatic events, 16 percent had experienced 15-19 traumatic events, and 13 percent had experienced 20 or more traumatic experiences. The most common traumatic event was a lack of food or water (80 percent), followed by ill health without access to medical care (80 percent), lack of shelter (80 percent), and presence in a combat situation (56 percent).  
  • Unemployment, frequency of displacement, age, and number of traumatic events were found to be associated with PTSD. Participants who were unemployed were twice as likely to be at risk of PTSD than those who were employed. Participants who had been displaced more than once were more likely to be at risk of PTSD than those who had been displaced only once. Participants who had been displaced when they were aged 19–35 years were 2.6 times more likely to be at risk of PTSD than those who were displaced when they were aged over 35 years. Number of traumatic events was also associated with the risk of PTSD. 

The authors found high levels of depressive disorder and PTSD among IDPs in Mogadishu. Several factors are associated with depression and PTSD among IDPs in Mogadishu including unemployment, cumulative traumatic exposure, and frequency and duration of displacement.