A road sign that reads "Welcome to Soweto' in Soweto, South Africa

Soweto Syndemics

This project shows how mental health is deeply entwined with social life and physical health. In this study, nearly 1000 people were interviewed about their health and wellbeing, to examine if social stress played a huge role in quality of life among people living with multiple chronic medical conditions. People interviewed at length talked more about the social and structural challenges that hindered them from taking care of their illnesses, as opposed to the illnesses themselves. A sophisticated multiple step and multi-method approach was used to define the terms in which people experienced and responded to stress as well as how those stresses affected chronic illness. The quantitative analyses with a population-based sample of nearly one thousand people demonstrated that social stressors can undermine one’s quality of life more than living with multiple chronic conditions. People who experienced less social stress were found to be more likely to report higher quality of life, regardless of the number of chronic conditions they reported to have or were diagnosed with. In this way, the study showed how the social dimensions of the 'syndemic' were more influential on one’s health than medical ones. If you'd like to engage with this project, and explore the large qualitative and quantitative datasets associated with it, please reach out to Professor Emily Mendenhall

Learn more about this project's focus on syndemics, social recovery, flourishing, and mental health during covid in Soweto, South Africa. 

tags: Emily Mendenhall; Edna Bosire