Objectives: Isolation due to the management of infectious diseases is thought to affect mental health, but the effects are still unknown. We examined the prevalence of anxiety symptoms and anger in persons isolated during the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) epidemic both at isolation period and at four to six months after release from isolation. We also determined risk factors associated with these symptoms at four to six months.
Methods: Of 14,992 individuals isolated for 2-week due to having contact with MERS patients in 2015, when MERS was introduced to Korea, 1,692 individuals were included in this study. Anxiety symptoms were evaluated with the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7-item scale and anger was assessed with the State-Trait Anger Expression Inventory at four to six months after release from isolation for MERS.
Results: Of 1,692 who came in contact with MERS patients, 1,656 were not diagnosed with MERS. Among 1,656, anxiety symptoms showed 7.6% (95% confidence interval [CI], 6.3 to 8.9%) and feelings of anger were present in 16.6% (95% CI, 14.8 to 18.4%) during the isolation period. At four to six months after release from isolation, anxiety symptoms were observed in 3.0% (95%CI, 2.2 to 3.9%). Feelings of anger were present in 6.4% (95% CI, 5.2 to 7.6%). Risk factors for experiencing anxiety symptoms and anger at four to six months after release included symptoms related to MERS during isolation, inadequate supplies (food, clothes, accommodation), social networking activities (email, text, Internet), history of psychiatric illnesses, and financial loss.
Conclusions: Mental health problems at four to six month after release from isolation might be prevented by providing mental health support to individuals with vulnerable mental health, and providing accurate information as well as appropriate supplies, including food, clothes, and accommodation.
Keywords: Anger; Anxiety; Isolation; Korea; Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus.