Setting priorities for ageing research in Africa: a systematic mapping review of 512 studies from sub-Saharan Africa

Michael E. Kalu*, Blessing U. Ojembe, Olayinka Akinrolie, Augustine C. Okoh, Israel I. Adandom, Henrietta C. Nwankwo, Michael S. Ajulo, Chidinma A. Omeje, Chukwuebuka O. Okeke, Ekezie M. Uduonu, Juliet C. Ezulike, Ebuka M. Anieto, Diameta Emofe, Ernest C. Nwachukwu, Michael C. Ibekaku, Perpetual C. Obi, Emerging Researchers and Professionals in Ageing-African Network

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
17 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: In 2040, the older population's growth rate in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) will be faster than those experienced by developed nations since 1950. In preparation for this growth, the National Institute on Aging commissioned the National Academies' Committee on Population to organize a workshop on advancing aging research in Africa. This meeting provided a platform for discussing some areas requiring improvement in aging research in SSA regions. We believed that conducting a systematic review of peer-reviewed articles to set priorities for aging research in SSA is warranted. Therefore, this article is the first in a Four-Part series that summaries the types and trends of peer-reviewed studies in SSA.

METHODS: This systematic mapping review followed the Search-Appraisal-Synthesis-Analysis Framework. We systematically searched multiple databases from inception till February 2021 and included peer-reviewed articles conducted with/for older adults residing in SSA. Conventional content analysis was employed to categorize studies into subject-related areas.

RESULTS: We included 512 studies (quantitative = 426, qualitative = 71 and mixed-method = 15). Studies were conducted in 32 countries. Quantitative studies included were observational studies: cross-sectional (n = 250, 59%), longitudinal (n = 126, 30%), and case-control (n = 12, 3%); and experimental studies: pre-post design (n = 4, 1%), randomized control trial (RCT, n = 12, 3%); and not reported (n = 21, 5%). Fifteen qualitative studies did not state their study design; where stated, study design ranged from descriptive (n = 14, 20%), ethnography (n = 12, 17%), grounded theory (n = 7, 10%), narrative (n = 5, 7%), phenomenology (n = 10, 14%), interpretative exploratory (n = 4, 6%), case studies (n = 4, 6%). Of the 15 mixed-method studies, seven did not state their mixed-method design. Where stated, design includes concurrent (n = 1), convergent (n = 1), cross-sectional (n = 3), informative (n = 1), sequential exploratory (n = 1) and retrospective (n = 2). Studies were classified into 30 (for quantitative studies) and seven (for qualitative and mixed-method) subject-related areas. HIV/AIDs-related and non-communicable diseases-related studies were the most predominant subject-related areas. No studies explored the transdisciplinary co-production of interventions.

CONCLUSIONS: There are glaring gaps in ageing research in SSA, especially mixed-methods and RCTs. A large number of studies focused on HIV/AIDs and non-communicable disease-related studies. National and international funding agencies should set up priority funding competitions for transdisciplinary collaborations in ageing research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15002
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Global Health
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2021


  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • aged
  • aging
  • humans
  • observational studies as topic
  • randomized controlled trials as topic
  • research/organization & administration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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