Prevalence in epidemic and pandemic survivors

What is prevalence?

Prevalence represents the overall proportion of individuals in a population who have the disorder of interest. It is different from incidence, which represents only the new cases that have developed over a particular time period. Point prevalence is the proportion of individuals in a population who have the disorder at a given point in time (e.g., at one-month post-trauma), while period prevalence is the proportion of individuals in a population who have the disorder over specific time periods (e.g., one to two months post-trauma). Lifetime prevalence is the proportion of individuals in a population who have ever had the disorder and lifetime morbid risk also includes those who had the disorder but were deceased at the time of the survey.

What is the evidence for the prevalence of PTSD in people exposed to epidemics or pandemics?

Moderate to high quality evidence finds the overall mean prevalence of PTSD symptoms during or after coronavirus outbreaks is around 18%. Rates were higher in patients (29%-32%) than in healthcare workers (14-18%) or in the general population (around 12%). Rates were generally higher in females than males, in longitudinal cohort studies than in cross-sectional studies, and during Middle East respiratory syndrome [MERS] or severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS] outbreaks than during the Coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19] outbreak. However, long-term measures of the effects of COVID-19 have not yet been completed. PTSD rates were higher after outbreaks, apart from in healthcare workers who showed higher rates of PTSD during outbreaks. In patients post-illness, rates were highest in people with a previous physical illness, with avascular necrosis, functional impairment, pain, and sense of lack of control.

Moderate quality evidence finds the mean prevalence of PTSD following COVID-19 quarantine is about 21%. There were similar levels of overall distress, depression, and anxiety symptoms post-quarantine.

August 2021

Image: ©CREATIVE WONDER – stock.adobe.com

Last updated at: 2:24 am, 4th August 2021
To view documentation related to this topic download the files below
Fact Sheet Technical Commentary

NeuRA Libraries

Title Colour Legend:
Green - Topic summary is available.
Orange - Topic summary is being compiled.
Red - Topic summary has no current systematic review available.