Mental health and well-being of older adults living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic review


Objective: In this systematic review, we aimed to summarise the empirical evidence on common mental disorders (CMDs), cognitive impairment, frailty and health-related quality of life (HRQoL) among people living with HIV aged ≥50 years (PLWH50 +) residing in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Specifically, we document the prevalence and correlates of these outcomes.

Design, data sources and eligibility criteria: The following online databases were systematically searched: PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Embase and Scopus up to January 2021. English-language publications on depression, anxiety, cognitive function, frailty and quality of life among PLWH50+ residing in SSA were included.

Data extraction and synthesis: We extracted information, including study characteristics and main findings. These were tabulated, and a narrative synthesis approach was adopted, given the substantial heterogeneity among included studies.

Results: A total of 50 studies from fifteen SSA countries met the inclusion criteria. About two-thirds of these studies emanated from Ethiopia, Uganda and South Africa. Studies regarding depression predominated (n=26), followed by cognitive impairment (n=13). Overall, PLWH50+ exhibited varying prevalence of depression (6%–59%), cognitive impairments (4%–61%) and frailty (3%–15%). The correlates of CMDs, cognitive impairment, frailty and HRQoL were rarely investigated, but those reported were sociodemographic variables, many of which were inconsistent.

Conclusions: This review documented an increasing number of published studies on HIV and ageing from SSA. However, the current evidence on the mental and well-being outcomes in PLWH50+ is inadequate to characterise the public health dimension of these impairments in SSA, because of heterogeneous findings, few well-designed studies and substantial methodological limitations in many of the available studies. Future work should have sufficiently large samples of PLWH50+, engage appropriate comparison groups, harmonise the measurement of these outcomes using a standardised methodology to generate more robust prevalence estimates and confirm predictors.


Mwangala PN, Mabrouk A, Wagner R, Newton CRJC, Abubakar AA




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Epidemiology
  • Population(s)
    • Older adults (>50 years)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Mental Health
    • Depression


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