Background: The A/H1N1 pandemic originated in Mexico in April 2009, amid high uncertainty, social and economic disruption, and media reports of panic. The aim of this research project was to evaluate the psychological response of family primary caregivers of patients hospitalised in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with suspected influenza A/H1N1 to establish whether there was empirical evidence of high adverse psychological response, and to identify risk factors for such a response. If such evidence was found, a secondary aim was to develop a specific early intervention of psychological support for these individuals, to reduce distress and possibly lessen the likelihood of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the longer term.
Methods: Psychological assessment questionnaires were administered to the family primary caregivers of patients hospitalised in the ICU in the General Hospital of Zone 1 of the Mexican Institute for Social Security (IMSS), Oaxaca, Mexico with suspected influenza A/H1N1, during the month of November 2009. The main outcome measures were ratings of reported perceived stress (PSS-10), depression (CES-D), and death anxiety (DAQ). Data were subjected to simple and multiple linear regression analysis to identify risk factors for adverse psychological response.
Results: Elevated levels of perceived stress and depression, compared to population normative data, and moderate levels of death anxiety were noted. Levels of depression were similar to those found in comparable studies of family members of ICU patients admitted for other conditions. Multiple regression analysis indicated that increasing age and non-spousal family relationship were significantly associated with depression and perceived stress. Female gender, increasing age, and higher levels of education were significantly associated with high death anxiety. Comparisons with data collected in previous studies in the same hospital ICU with groups affected by a range of other medical conditions indicated that the psychological response reported in this study was generally lower.
Conclusions: Data indicated that, contrary to widely publicised reports of 'panic' surrounding A/H1N1, that some of those most directly affected did not report excessive psychological responses; however, we concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support provision of limited psychological support to family caregivers.