Associations between WASH-related violence and depressive symptoms in adolescent girls and young women in South Africa (HPTN 068): a crosssectional analysis

Objective There is a lack of research on experiences of WASH-related violence. This study aims to quantify the association between experience or worry of violence when using the toilet or collecting water and depressive symptoms among a cohort of young women in South Africa. Methods Data are from visit 3 of the HPTN 068 cohort of adolescent girls in rural Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. Participants (n=1798) included in this analysis were aged 13–21 at baseline. Lifetime experience of violence or fear of violence when using the toilet and collecting water was collected by self-report; depressive symptoms in the past week were measured using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D). We used G-computation to calculate the prevalence difference (PD) and prevalence ratio of depression (CES-D score >15) associated with each domain of violence, controlling for baseline covariates. Findings A total of 15.1% of respondents reported experiencing violence when using the toilet; 17.1% reported experiencing violence when collecting water and 26.7% reported depression. In adjusted models, those who reported experiencing violence when using the toilet had an 18.1% higher prevalence of depression (95% CI: 11.6% to 24.4%) than those who did not experience violence when using the toilet. Adjusted prevalence of depression was also higher among those who reported violence when collecting water (PD 11.9%, 95% CI: 6.7% to 17.2%), and who worried about violence when using the toilet (PD 12.8%, 95% CI: 7.9% to 19.8%), as compared with those who did not report these experiences. Worrying about violence when collecting water was not associated with depression after adjusting for covariates. Conclusion Experience of WASH-related violence is common among young women in rural South Africa, and experience or worry of experiencing violence is associated with higher prevalence of depressive symptoms.