Positive Adaptation to Compound Risk: Learning about Mental Health Resilience from African Emerging Adults

Project status


Multiple risks jeopardise the mental health of emerging adults living in African townships. To date, resilience studies have provided incomplete explanations of what enables this population’s resilience. It is particularly unclear which resilience-enabling factors impact mental health outcomes differentially (ie, have greater or lesser protective value) for young African men and women at lower and higher levels of risk exposure, or how consistent these factors are over time. In response, this project will engage 60 African 18-29-year-olds from a structurally disadvantaged South African township to co-produce diary and interview data over a six-month period. This community, which is prototypical of stressed African environments, has a long-standing research relationship with the research team. To advance the mental health of young people in stressed African communities, the research team will share the resulting insights with grassroots mental health and advocacy organisations in ways that they deem useful and that facilitate resilience-enabling changes in practice.

Research team

Dr Diane Levine, University of Leicester; Dr Sadiyya Haffejee, University of Johannesburg, South Africa; Professor Linda Theron, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Dr Michael Ungar, Dalhousie University, Canada

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