This study investigated the long-term mental health effects and their risk factors in Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) survivors. The researchers followed a group of MERS survivors for 12 months after the outbreak. They assessed PTSD and depression using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised Korean version (IES-R-K) and the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) respectively. The study found that 42.9% of survivors reported PTSD and 27.0% reported depression. Anxiety and stigma in the survivors when they had MERS were predictors of PTSD. Having a family member who died from MERS was a predictor of depression. This study finds that psychological and social factors influenced the mental health of survivors over a long period of time. Mental health support and efforts to reduce stigma may improve recovery.
The researchers wanted to understand the long-term mental health effects and their risk factors in South Korean MERS survivors.
The MERS outbreak lasted from May to December 2015. Outbreaks of infectious disease affect both physical and psychological well being. Few studies have investigated the psychological impact of the MERS outbreak. This study explores mental health issues and related risk factors in MERS survivors 12 months after the outbreak to determine long-term psychological consequences.
54% of subjects had at least one symptom of PTSD, depression, suicidality, or insomnia that was above the threshold for diagnosis. 42.9% of the participants had significant PTSD, and 27% had depression. 22.9% showed at least a moderate degree of suicidal risk. 28% reported significant insomnia. During MERS and 1 year after MERS, PTSD, anxiety, and depression were more severe and quality of life was worse in survivors with PTSD or depression. Survivors with PTSD reported higher scores for negative coping strategies.
Previous psychiatric history, having a family member who died from MERS, depression and anxiety when infected with MERS, stigma, and negative coping strategies were factors associated with PTSD.
Gender, previous psychiatric history, anxiety before MERS, having a family member who died from MERS, and depression, anxiety, and stigma when infected with MERS were associated with depression.
Previous psychiatric history, anxiety, and stigma were predictors of PTSD 1 year after MERS. Previous psychiatric history and having a family member who died from MERS were predictors of depression 1 year after MERS.
The study confirmed a high prevalence of mental health issues in MERS survivors after the outbreak. Infectious diseases are not only serious medical illnesses but also psychologically traumatic experiences that can result in long-term psychological issues.
The study found that psychological outcomes associated with infectious disease are affected by factors during the outbreak period, rather than 1 year later. This means that psychological factors and social factors may play an important role in psychological outcomes of MERS survivors rather than medical factors.
The findings of this study suggest a need for appropriate psychological and social support during infectious disease outbreaks to reduce psychological distress in patients. Particular attention should be paid towards stigma, since it is the only risk factor found in the study that can be changed.