Impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) on depressive symptoms of older Chinese in Hong Kong

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Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a deadly and highly contagious disease. This study examined the impact of SARS on the depressive symptoms of older adults. A stratified random sample of 296 older Chinese aged 55 years and older took part in a telephone survey to complete a Chinese version of the Geriatric Depression Scale before, during, and after the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong. Significant time effect was detected using one-way repeated measures, ANOVA and Mauchly's Test of Sphericity. Post hoc paired t-tests were used to further test the differences of the mean depressive scores reported by the participants over the three time periods. For the older men, no significant changes in the mean depression score were reported between the time before (Mean = 3.92, 95% CI: 3.40-4.43) and during (Mean = 3.77, 95% CI: 3.26-4.28) the SARS outbreak. However, after the SARS outbreak the score (Mean = 3.08, 95% CI: 2.61-3.54) was significantly lower than the pre-outbreak period. For women, depressive symptoms increased from the pre-outbreak level of 4.19 (95% CI: 3.59-4.79) to 5.18 during the SARS outbreak (95% CI: 4.56-5.80). After SARS, the score returned to the pre-outbreak level (Mean = 3.83, 95% CI: 3.27-4.40). SARS created psychological impact on older adults. Although the impact of SARS may be different for men and women, the findings suggest that actions should be taken to prevent mental health deterioration of older people during outbreak of a health epidemic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalHallym International Journal of Aging
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Elderly
  • Health epidemic
  • Older adults
  • Psychological health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ageing
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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