Sleep disorders were elevated within three to 12 months post-infection.


Summary: An analysis of nearly 50,000 medical records in Taiwan reveals a link between dengue fever and increased risks of sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression. Researchers found that dengue patients showed elevated risks of developing depressive disorders at various time points post-infection. Sleep disorders were notably higher within three to 12 months after infection. These findings emphasize the potential long-term mental health impacts of dengue fever, necessitating further research.

Key Takeaways:

  • Short-Term Sleep Disorders: The risk of sleep disorders was significantly higher within three to twelve months following a dengue infection.
  • Elevated Depression Risk: Dengue patients exhibited a higher likelihood of developing depressive disorders in both short and long-term post-infection periods.
  • Hospitalization Impact: Patients hospitalized due to severe dengue had an increased risk of anxiety within three months and sleep disorders within 12 months, alongside a persistent risk of depression.

Analysis of the medical records of nearly 50,000 people who experienced dengue fever in Taiwan suggests that this disease is associated with elevated short-term risk of sleep disorders and anxiety and both short- and long-term risk of depression. 

The findings, by researchers at National Cheng Kung University and National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, are published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

People may develop dengue fever after being bitten by a mosquito carrying the dengue virus. Dengue fever can be mild, but it can also progress to life-threatening severity, and some people may have long-term health effects. Prior research has uncovered links between active dengue fever and psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety. However, few studies have examined the long-term risk of such disorders after a dengue infection.

Research Methodology and Analysis

To address this knowledge gap, Hsin-I Shih, MD, MPH, and colleagues analyzed the medical records of 45,334 dengue patients in Taiwan and, for comparison, 226,670 patients who did not experience dengue. Covering the years 2002 to 2015, the researchers examined whether dengue patients were more likely to develop anxiety, depressive disorders, and sleep disorders at various time points after infection. 

To help account for other factors that could influence mental health, the dengue patients were grouped with demographically similar non-dengue patients for statistical analysis.

Findings on Depression and Sleep Disorders

The researchers found that the dengue patients had a greater likelihood of developing a depressive order across all timeframes, including less than three months, three to 12 months, and more than 12 months after their infection. Sleep disorders were only elevated within three to 12 months post-infection, and there was no observable elevated risk of anxiety.

Taking a closer look at patients whose dengue was severe enough for them to be hospitalized, the researchers found an elevated risk of anxiety disorders within the first three months of infection, as well as elevated risk of sleep disorders in the first 12 months. This subgroup also had elevated risk of depression across timeframes.

Implications and Future Research

These findings suggest a potential link between dengue fever and subsequent depressive disorder. However, further research is needed to determine whether dengue contributes directly to development of depression, or if the association is due to some indirect mechanism.

The authors add: “This study highlights a significant association between dengue fever and an elevated risk of depression in both the short and long term, underscoring the need for further research into the mental health impacts of dengue infection.”

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