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*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-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
    Number of pages11
    JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotraumatology
    Volume14
    Issue number2
    Early online date30 Oct 2023
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Psychiatry and Mental health

    User-Defined Keywords

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

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