Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Background and objectives: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are taking a toll on Africa’s youth at younger ages than in other regions. These are attributed to risk factors that usually advance in adolescence, such as unhealthy diets and reduced physical activity. Young adults in South Africa, particularly women, tend to be sedentary, consume energy-dense diets low in micronutrients, and are more likely to develop NCDs much earlier in life than those in high-income countries. With an intersectionality perspective, this study explored young adults’ barriers and solutions to addressing these risk factors in Soweto.

Setting: Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa, is one of the most well-known historically disadvantaged townships known for its established communities, and socioeconomic and cultural diversity. Design: A qualitative investigation utilising focus group discussions (FGDs) with a topic guide. FGDs were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed using a combination of deductive and inductive approaches.

Participants: 15 Men and 15 women 18–24 years of age living in Soweto (n = 30). Results: South African young adults have a basic understanding of the significance of nutrition, exercise, and their ties to health. However, numerous barriers (like taste, affordability and crime) to such behaviours were reported, arising from the participants’ personal, domestic, social, and local community levels. Young women experienced sexism and had safety concerns while exercising in the streets, while young men tended to describe themselves as lazy to engage in exercise as they find it boring.

Conclusions: Young adults face a multitude of intersecting barriers, making it difficult to adopt or sustain health-promoting behaviours. It is important that potential solutions focus on the intersections of barriers to healthy eating and physical activity in order to provide more realistic support for such behaviours.

Publication (Name of Journal)

PLOS Global Public Health


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Public Health Commons