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‘54% of MERS survivors had mental illness even 1 year after recovery’
  • By Choi Gwang-seok
  • Published 2020.06.02 15:38
  • Updated 2020.06.02 15:38
  • comments 0

More than half of the survivors of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in 2015 suffered from a mental health problem even one year after recovering from the infectious disease, local researchers said in a study.

The findings indicate that healthcare professionals should carefully monitor the mental health of Covid-19 patients as well, they noted.

National Medical Center Professor Lee So-hee and Shin Hyoung-shik released the study on the mental health of 63 people out of 148 MERS survivors. Other research participants included Seoul National University Hospital Professor Park Hye-yoon and Park Wan-beom, Seoul Medical Center Professor Lee Hae-woo, Dankook University Hospital Professor Lee Jung-jae, and Chungnam National University Hospital Professor Kim Jeong-lan.

The study showed that 34 people, or 54 percent of the total, who recovered from MERS suffered from one or more issues in mental health at 24 months post-MERS. About 43 percent experienced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 27 percent had depression. Twenty-two percent had suicidality, and 28 percent, insomnia.

The researchers found that greater recognition of social stigma and anxiety during the MERS outbreak increased the risk of PTSD.

Having a family member who died from MERS predicted the development of depression, and a previous history of psychiatric treatment raised the risk of both PTSD and depression.

However, the researchers cautioned against a hasty interpretation of the latest study in applying it to the current Covid-19 outbreak situation because MERS and Covid-19 had many differences in morbidity, fatality, the government’s response, and social response in Korea.

However, the findings implied that psychosocial factors, rather than the seriousness of the infectious disease, could influence patients' mental health, they said.

“With serious concerns over the mental health of Covid-19 patients and those under the quarantine, the study showed that people should not overlook the possibility of patients’ mental issues becoming a long-term problem,” said Lee Soo-hee, the lead author and a professor at the National Medical Center.

SNUH Professor Park Hye-yoon said efforts to reduce the stigma of the infected people and active support for patients with psychosocial difficulties such as bereavement or anxiety could reduce psychological distress in an infectious disease outbreak.

The study was published in the latest issue of BMC Public Health.


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