The outbreak of COVID-19 in China in December 2019 has been identified as a pandemic and a health emergency of global concern. Our objective was to investigate the prevalence and predictors of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) in China hardest-hit areas during COVID-19 outbreak, especially exploring the gender difference existing in PTSS. One month after the December 2019 COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan China, we surveyed PTSS and sleep qualities among 285 residents in Wuhan and surrounding cities using the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5) and 4 items from the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). Hierarchical regression analysis and non-parametric test were used to analyze the data. Results indicated that the prevalence of PTSS in China hardest-hit areas a month after the COVID-19 outbreak was 7%. Women reported significant higher PTSS in the domains of re-experiencing, negative alterations in cognition or mood, and hyper-arousal. Participants with better sleep quality or less frequency of early awakenings reported lower PTSS. Professional and effective mental health services should be designed in order to aid the psychological wellbeing of the population in affected areas, especially those living in hardest-hit areas, females and people with poor sleep quality.
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