Researchers in the United States have found in a study that there is high prevalence of mental disorders across populations affected by coronavirus pandemics.

The team conducted a meta-analysis of research on Covid-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). They found that one in five adults developed pandemic-related mental disorders.

The study noted that psychiatric morbidity and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were the most prevalent disorders among most populations.

The disorders occurred most frequently among infected or recovered adults, followed by healthcare providers, adults in the community, and quarantined adults.

The findings of the meta-analysis were published in the journal medRxiv*.

The findings suggested that pandemic-related stressors, threats and traumas, including viral exposure, witnessing illness or death, restricted mobility, unemployment, and economic loss are all likely to increase the risk of mental disorders.

“Infected/recovered adults and healthcare providers, in particular, may experience traumatic events (e.g., invasive treatments, witnessing death) that increase the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder,” the team wrote.

The researchers looked at various electronic databases between April 15 until June 1 2020 and identified 60 published articles covering 66,190 participants.

Psychiatric morbidity

The researchers found that psychiatric morbidity was the most prevalent (32 per cent) disorder across all populations, with the exception of depression in community adults.

The second most prevalent disorder was PTSD (21 per cent), followed by depression (17 per cent), and anxiety (12 per cent).

The prevalence of psychiatric morbidity and PTSD was highest among infected/recovered adults, followed by healthcare providers, adults in the community, and quarantined adults.

Among infected/recovered adults, the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity and PTSD ranged from 25 per cent to 56 per cent. Among healthcare providers, the prevalence of psychiatric morbidity was 29 per cent and PTSD was 21 per cent.

Among adults in the community, the prevalence of depression and PTSD was 19 per cent and 15 per cent, respectively.

Across all mental disorders, the highest prevalence was again found among infected/recovered adults (30 per cent), followed by healthcare providers (20 per cent), community adults (16 per cent), and quarantined adults (12 per cent).

The researchers concluded in the study that future research that examines the potentially manifold pathways to individual outcomes among sub-populations most at-risk will be instrumental in intervening in a cost-effective, effective and equitable manner.