n South African Medical Journal - Mental health of and substance use by adolescents : guest editorial

Volume 106, Issue 6
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Almost 40% of the population of sub-Saharan Africa are between the ages of 12 and 24 years. Adolescence is a time of important biological, physiological, neurological, behavioural and social transitions towards adulthood. This period of transition is characterised by higher impulsivity, increased sensation-seeking behaviour, higher risk-taking behaviours relating to substance use and/or sexual experimentation, an increased sense of self-awareness/invincibility, and a higher importance of social relationships involving partners and peers rather than parents and older siblings. Not surprisingly, the psychological stressors of going through adolescence, coupled with major hormonal, physiological and identity development and peer pressure (to fit in with dominant peer norms), result in enormous stress levels that sometimes lead to a variety of mental health disorders, e.g. inadequate coping and/or support structures.

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