Stress and psychological impact on SARS patients during the outbreak

Can J Psychiatry. 2004 Jun;49(6):385-90. doi: 10.1177/070674370404900607.


Objective: To examine stress and psychological impact in severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) patients during the 2003 outbreak. SARS is a novel, highly infectious pneumonia, and its psychological impact is still unclear.

Method: At the peak of the outbreak, SARS patients (n = 79) and healthy control subjects (n = 145) completed the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and documented a range of psychological responses. Groups were balanced for age, sex, education, and living circumstances.

Results: Stress was significantly higher in SARS patients than in healthy control subjects. Stress correlated significantly with negative psychological effects. Of SARS patients, 39% (n = 30) were infected health care workers; these individuals reported significantly more fatigue and worries about health than did other patients. Of patients, 25% (n = 20) requested psychological follow-up.

Conclusions: General stress and negative psychological effects are increased in SARS patients, particularly among infected health care workers. This may increase the risk of mood and stress-related disorders. Functional impairment is apparent in the postrecovery phase.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology*
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychometrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires