Factors that contribute to the Development of Psychiatric Symptoms in Physical Trauma Survivors at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, 2019

Background: Worldwide 5.8 million people die each year and 45 million are moderately or severely disabled following physical trauma making physical trauma responsible annually for 10% of deaths and 16% of all disabilities. Psychiatric symptoms are common in trauma survivors. It is important to recognize these symptoms early and to identify interventions that will improve treatment outcomes and quality of life of survivors. Objective: The aim of this study was to identify the factors that contribute to the development of psychiatric symptoms among physical trauma survivors. Method: A prospective longitudinal cohort study was conducted in which a total of 162 physical trauma patients were enrolled shortly after admission to the University Teaching Hospital surgical wards and followed up for a period of 12 weeks. Enrolled physical trauma survivors underwent periodic psychiatric evaluation at enrollment, at four weeks post enrollment and at twelve weeks post enrollment. The main outcomes were measured using the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, a psychological tool that is used to screen for psychiatric symptoms. Pearson correlation analyses were used to explore factors that contributed to development of psychiatric symptoms. Results: Overall, 93.7% of the participants had significant mental health symptoms on enrollment. This decreased to 29.4% at 12 weeks post enrollment. The common psychiatric symptoms noted were anxiety, depression, somatization, guilt, and suicidality. The factors affecting the development of psychiatric symptoms identified in this study were the age and sex of participants, the presence of social support, the mechanism of injury and the severity of injury. Conclusion: Psychiatric symptoms are quite common in physical trauma survivors affecting upto 29.4% of survivors at 12 weeks post trauma. The main factors contributing to the development of psychiatric symptoms include age and gender of individual, the presence of social support, the mechanism of trauma and the severity of trauma.


Tembo Thandiwe Martha, Mwanza James, Ravi Paul

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