Needlestick injuries can cause long-term psychological illness

People who experience needlestick injuries can suffer persistent and substantial psychiatric illness or depression, according to a recent study by the Society of Occupational Medicine.

The research – published in the society’s journal, Occupational Medicine – found that although the physical health effects of a needlestick injury are well known, the mental health consequences of such injuries were less well recognised.

Those individuals affected sustained psychiatric trauma similar in severity to that caused by events such as road traffic accidents, the study found. This, in turn, could have a major effect on a person’s work attendance record, family relationships and sexual health.

The duration of the psychiatric symptoms was linked to the length of time the person injured by the sharp had to wait for blood test results, it added.

“The psychological aspects of needlestick injuries are often overlooked,” said Professor Ben Green, author of the research. “The chances of physical damage – infection and so on – are what society focuses on, but these risks are, in reality, very small. The main health implication of needlestick incidents is probably psychiatric injury caused by fear and worry.”

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