Association between sex and mental health sequelae after ICU discharge: A scoping review


  • Emily Checkwitch, BScN, RN University of Alberta
  • Lydia Antwi, BScN, RN University of Alberta
  • Elisavet Papathanassoglou, PhD, MSc, BScN, RN University of Alberta, School of Nursing



Critical Care, Critically Ill Patients, adults, sequelae, mental health, risk factors, ptsd, anxiety, depression, psychosocial, psychiatric, sex, gender, post-intensive care syndrome, quality of life, Nursing


Background: Following discharge from intensive care units (ICUs), more than 50% of patients may develop mental health conditions including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and anxiety. However, there is limited research to suggest risk factors and new possibilities for management.

Objective: Are there sex-related differences in the incidence, severity, and duration of mental health sequelae in adults after ICU discharge?

Methods: Studies published in English within the last 20 years, focusing on sex and mental health sequelae post-ICU. Online databases MedLine, EmBASE, Scopus, PsycINFO, and CINAHL were explored as of September 22, 2021.

Results: Of the 706 studies screened, six were included, and three demonstrated a statistically significant association between sex and mental health sequelae. Four outcomes of interest were noted: mental health-related quality of life (HRQoL), post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), major depression/PTSD comorbidity, and major depression. Three studies that addressed mental HRQoL noted a decreased mental HRQoL in females compared to males, but two were statistically significant. No statistically significant association was found between sex and PTSS. One study examined both major depression/PTSD comorbidity and major depression and found a statistically significant association between female sex and both outcomes.

Conclusions: Despite methodological limitations of the identified studies, this scoping review shows a trend for worse mental health outcomes in females post-ICU. More research focusing on confounding factors is needed to better understand the associations between sex, gender, and mental health sequelae in post-ICU patients.




How to Cite

Checkwitch, E., Antwi, L., & Papathanassoglou, E. (2023). Association between sex and mental health sequelae after ICU discharge: A scoping review. International Journal of Critical Care, 17(3), 88–114.

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