Dissociative symptoms among community health service users in Hong Kong: a longitudinal study of clinical course and consequences

Hong Wang Fung, Stanley Kam Ki Lam, Wai Tong Chien, Albe Sin Ying Ng, Emily Nga Man Wong, Colin A. Ross, Suet Lin Hung, Vincent Wan Ping Lee

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

Abstract

Background: Previous studies have demonstrated the high prevalence of dissociative symptoms and their association with considerable healthcare costs. However, there is a lack of studies that describe whether dissociative symptoms persist and lead to other clinical outcomes over time in the community. Objectives: This study investigated the persistence, predictors, and consequences of dissociative symptoms in the community. Methods: We analyzed longitudinal data in a sample of community health service users in Hong Kong (N = 173). Results: A relatively high proportion (63.6%) of participants with baseline dissociative symptoms continued to exhibit dissociative symptoms after approximately 9 months. Baseline non-betrayal trauma predicted subsequent dissociative symptoms (β =.141, p =.024). Participants with baseline dissociative symptoms were more likely to have received subsequent emergency mental health services (9.1% vs 0.7%, p =.005). Baseline dissociative symptoms significantly predicted subsequent post-traumatic symptoms (β =.165 to.191, p <.05) and difficulty in social and occupational participation (β = −.152 to −.182, p <.05) even after controlling for baseline scores, trauma exposure, and use of professional support. The predictive role of dissociative symptoms on subsequent disturbances in self-organization symptoms and social participation difficulty remained significant after applying the Bonferroni correction. Conclusions: This is one of the very few studies showing that dissociative symptoms are persistent to a certain degree and could predict other symptoms and subsequent impairments even in community settings. Factors that affect the trajectory of dissociative symptoms should be further investigated. Regular screening for dissociative symptoms is recommended. Considering its prevalence, persistence, and clinical and social consequences, dissociation should be given greater public health attention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2269695
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • dissociation
  • primary care
  • social and occupational participation
  • traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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