The epidemiology of spirit possession in the aftermath of mass political violence in Mozambique

Igreja, Victor and Dias-Lambranca, Beatrice and Hershey, Douglas A. and Racin, Limore and Richters, Annemiek and Reis, Ria (2010) The epidemiology of spirit possession in the aftermath of mass political violence in Mozambique. Social Science & Medicine, 71 (3). 592 -599. ISSN 0277-9536


In this article we assess the prevalence rates of harmful spirit possession, different features of the spirits and of their hosts, the correlates of the spirit possession experience, health patterns and the sources of health care consulted by possessed individuals in a population sample of 941 adults (255 men, 686 women) in post-civil war Mozambique in 2003-2004. A combined quantitative-qualitative research design was used for data collection. A major study outcome is that the prevalence rates vary according to the severity of the possession as measured by the number of harmful spirits involved in the affliction. The prevalence rate of participants suffering from at least one spirit was 18.6 percent; among those individuals, 5.6 percent were suffering from possession by two or more spirits. A comparison between possessed and non-possessed individuals shows that certain types of spirit possession are a major cause of health impairment. We propose that knowledge of both local understandings of harmful spirit possession and the community prevalence of this kind of possession is a precondition for designing public health interventions that sensitively respond to the health needs of people afflicted by spirits.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Restricted access to published version in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Business - School of Law
Date Deposited: 14 May 2018 02:06
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2018 02:53
Uncontrolled Keywords: civil war; Cold War; legacies of violence; epidemiology; spirit possession; collective memory; embodied accountability; transitional justice; Mozambique; Africa
Fields of Research : 16 Studies in Human Society > 1601 Anthropology > 160104 Social and Cultural Anthropology
16 Studies in Human Society > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169901 Gender Specific Studies
16 Studies in Human Society > 1608 Sociology > 160805 Social Change
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170113 Social and Community Psychology
11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111714 Mental Health
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.04.024

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