Symptoms of Anxiety, Depression, and Stress among Families of Critically Ill Patients with COVID-19 A Longitudinal Clinical Trial

Kalli A. Sarigiannis, Jonathan J. Tringali, James Vu, Ashley Eaton England, Stephanie Lietzau, Charles Hebert, David Banayan, Santosh Basapur, Crystal M. Glover, Raj C. Shah, James Gerhart, Jared A. Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Rationale: Families of critically ill patients with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) may be at particularly high risk for anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder after hospital discharge. Objectives: To assess symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress among families of patients with COVID-19 during and after intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and to use qualitative methods to determine the sources of emotional distress. Methods: Families of patients with COVID-19 who participated in an ICU study were approached for participation in this post-hospital discharge study. Participants completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and the Impact of Events Scale-Revised (IES-R) at up to three points during the ICU stay and once after the ICU stay. Mixed-effects models were used to compare trajectories of HADS and IES-R scores over the ICU and post-ICU periods. Telephone interviews with participants were evaluated using thematic content analysis. Results: Among the 90 families that participated from September 2020 to April 2021, 47 respective patients were alive and 43 were deceased. Average HADS anxiety, HADS depression, and IES-R scores after hospital discharge were significantly higher (greater symptom burden) among families of deceased versus surviving patients: 9.2 (95% confidence interval [CI], 7.8-10.6) versus 6.3 (95% CI, 4.9-7.6) (P,0.01), 7.1 (95% CI, 5.7-8.6) versus 3.2 (95% CI, 2.3-4.1) (P,0.001), and 36.1 (95% CI, 31.0-41.2) versus 20.4 (95% CI, 16.1-24.8) (P,0.001), respectively. HADS anxiety and HADS depression scores began to diverge during the ICU stay, whereas IES-R scores diverged after the stay for families of surviving versus deceased patients. Qualitative analysis confirmed a higher burden of psychological symptoms among families of deceased patients. Memories from the ICU stay became a focal point for participants who lost their loved ones, whereas families of surviving patients were able to look positively toward the future. In addition, families of deceased patients often viewed friends and family as sources of stress, whereas families of surviving patients typically viewed their community as a source of support. Conclusions: Patient death was associated with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder among families of ICU patients with COVID-19. Psychological support interventions may be most beneficial for families of patients who died of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)705-712
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • coronavirus disease
  • intensive care unit family experience
  • post-intensive care syndrome-family


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