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Author Notes:

Correspondence to: Shane A. Norris, Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics, School of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of theWitwatersrand, Private Bag X3 Wits 2050 Johannesburg, South Africa


KM and BS designed the study and the tools as well as interviewed the participants and coded the transcripts.

KM additionally analyzed the data for this article. RG assisted in the study design and supervised the data collection while RFM assisted in the analysis as well as the manuscript.

The study was overviewed by ADS, KD and SN, all of whom also contributed to the design of the study.

KM wrote the article and all authors reviewed and significantly contributed to the revisions.

All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

We acknowledge and sincerely thank all the research team at the MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit for their support and feedback.

Thank you to the MRC/DFID African Research Leader Scheme for funding, as well as the Rollins School of Public Health Global Field Experience for funding the PIs.

Moreover, we would like to thank Dr. Kirk Elifson for sharing his extensive knowledge of qualitative research methods.

The authors have not received any funding or benefits from industry or elsewhere to conduct this study.



  • Science & Technology
  • Life Sciences & Biomedicine
  • Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
  • health services
  • help-seeking behavior
  • social support
  • reproductive health
  • sexual health
  • young adult
  • South Africa
  • reproductive health services
  • adolescent health
  • care services
  • youth
  • pathways
  • perspectives
  • perceptions
  • prevention
  • system

The gender dimensions of social networks and help-seeking behaviors of young adults in Soweto, South Africa


Journal Title:

Global Health Action


Volume 9, Number 10


, Pages 31138-31138

Type of Work:

Article | Final Publisher PDF


BACKGROUND: Young people constitute a major proportion of the general population and are influenced by a variety of factors, especially in regards to seeking help. An understanding of help-seeking behaviors among young people is important for designing and implementing effective targeted health services. METHODS: We conducted in-depth interviews with 23 young adults aged 21-22 years in Soweto, South Africa, to explore the gender dimensions of social networks and help-seeking behaviors. RESULTS: We found that young men had larger peer social networks than young women and that young women's social networks centered on their households. For general health, both young men and young women often sought help from an older, maternal figure. However, for sexual health, young men consulted their group of peers, whereas young women were more likely to seek information from one individual, such as an older female friend or family member. CONCLUSION: These differences in help-seeking behaviors have important implications for the delivery of health information in South Africa and how health promotion is packaged to young men and women, especially for sexual and reproductive health issues. Peer educators might be very effective at conveying health messages for young men, whereas women might respond better to health information presented in a more confidential setting either through community health workers or mHealth technologies. Provision of or linkage to health services that is consistent with young people's health-seeking behavior, such as using peer educators and community health care workers, may increase the reach and utilization of these services among young people.

Copyright information:

© 2016 Kathryn Meagley et al.

This is an Open Access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
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