Mental disorders and substance abuse among Rwandan university students: the moderating effects of interpersonal violence

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Diane Ngwino Sengesho, Japhet Niyonsenga, Assumpta Muhayisa & Jean Mutabaruka


Background: There is an abundance of evidence suggesting that interpersonal violence commonly co-occurs with mental disorders and substance abuse. Interpersonal violence is one of the most well-documented and salient factors of mental disorders and substance abuse; however, there are no studies investigating the moderating role of interpersonal violence in post-conflict Rwanda.

Objective: The aim of the present study was to explore the relationship between mental disorders and substance abuse among Rwandan university students, and whether the role of interpersonal violence is a moderating factor.

Method: A purposive sample of 143 undergraduate university students (mean age = 22.4 years, SD = 2.6) from University of Rwanda–Remera Campus were selected for participation in this cross-sectional study. We used linear regression analysis to examine the relationships between mental disorders, substance abuse and interpersonal violence.

Results: Substance abuse was significantly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and interpersonal violence. Interpersonal violence was a significant moderator of the associations between PTSD symptoms (β = 0.43, p < 0.001), anxiety symptoms (β = 0.47, p < 0.001), depressive symptoms (β = 0.48, p < 0.001) and substance use.

Conclusion: The results imply that PTSD, depression and anxiety symptoms are associated with increased risk of substance abuse, and this risk appears to become substantially more elevated when there are also current or historic reports of interpersonal violence.

© 2023 NTVP - All Rights Reserved