Original Research

The relationship between locus of control and depression: A cross-sectional survey with university students in Botswana

Tsholofelo Khumalo, Ilse E. Plattner
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 25 | a1221 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v25i0.1221 | © 2019 Tsholofelo Khumalo, Ilse Elisabeth Plattner | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 March 2018 | Published: 19 February 2019

About the author(s)

Tsholofelo Khumalo, Department of Psychology, University of Botswana, Botswana
Ilse E. Plattner, Department of Psychology, University of Botswana, Botswana


Background: Research has consistently revealed a positive association between external locus of control and depression. Little, if any, research has investigated locus of control and depression in the sociocultural context of Botswana.

Aim: To explore the relationship between locus of control and depression among undergraduate students in Botswana and to determine the impact of age and gender on this relationship.

Setting: University of Botswana.

Methods: A sample of 272 students was surveyed through a self-administered questionnaire, which included the Levenson’s multidimensional locus of control scale, the Beck Depression Inventory-II and demographic questions. Data analysis utilised descriptive statistics, correlation analysis, independent samples t-tests and standard multiple regression analysis.

Results: Of the 272 participants, 47.3% scored low (minimal) levels of depression, 23.4% scored mild levels, 18.0% scored moderate levels and 11.3% scored severe levels of depression. Students who believed that they were in control of events in their lives were less likely to present with depressive symptoms (r = -0.29, p = 0.000), while students who believed that chance (r = 0.45, p = 0.000) or powerful others (r = 0.40, p = 0.000) controlled their lives were more likely to have high depression scores. Both internal and external locus of control, together with age, explained 31% of the variance in depression scores; gender made no significant contribution to levels of depression.

Conclusion: The study results draw attention to locus of control as one of the cognitive variables associated with depression. Further research is needed to determine how locus of control can be addressed in the treatment and prevention of depression in university contexts.


Depression; Locus of control; University students


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Crossref Citations

1. Control Yourself! Examining the Dimensions of Eudaimonic Psychological Well-Being as Related to Locus of Control Using Structural Equation Modeling
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