By Adam Vaughan A march in London calling for a second EU referendumPaul Smyth/Alamy A case of a man who appears to have experienced acute psychosis triggered by the UK’s 2016 European Union referendum has been described in the journal BMJ Case Reports. The man, in his forties, is the first reported case of an acute psychotic disorder to have been brought on by the referendum. The case report describes how the man’s health deteriorated rapidly after the poll’s result on 26 June 2016, as he cited “significant concerns” about Brexit. Three weeks later he was brought to a hospital emergency department in an agitated, perplexed and confused state. After being admitted to a psychiatric ward, he described his family as multicultural and said he felt ashamed to be British. “I was looking at the electoral map of voting for the EU. I am in a constituency that reflects an opinion that is not for me,” he said. Advertisement The case is an extreme example, but there are signs of the wider mental health impact of the referendum result. Nearly two-thirds of people in the UK think anxiety over Brexit is bad for people’s health, polling has found. One study last year found that, after the referendum, self-reported wellbeing of a sample of people in the UK was lower than in samples from other countries. Read more: Brexit makes us question democracy – and so does climate change The individual in his forties outlined how race issues and social media had played a role in his deteriorating mental state after the referendum. “As well as my own anxieties about Brexit, it was also a time when a friend of mine was experiencing immense anxiety about what was happening around him in the US and we were talking together on social media about racial issues,” he said. Post-referendum, he began spending more time putting his thoughts across on social media, and became increasingly worried about racial incidents, his wife said. After admission to hospital, he was given drugs used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and recovered completely after two weeks. He had previously experienced a much less severe psychotic episode 13 years earlier, triggered by work-related stress. Read more: Nobel-winner Paul Nurse on Brexit: ‘The UK is turning in on itself’ “Brexit appears to be the primary stressor because of the temporal proximity, the patient’s reported personal significance of the event, the nature of the evolution of the psychotic episode and the content of the psychopathology,” says Zia Katshu at the University of Nottingham, UK, who wrote the case report. Work and family stresses may have contributed too, he says. “This single case report is only an anecdotal evidence of association of the stressor, Brexit referendum, with psychosis,” says Katshu. “A causal inference between the two can not be derived from it.” Sotiris Vandoros of King’s College London says the uncertainty brought on by Brexit may be one way that it negatively affects mental health. “While the financial effects of the referendum – with the exception of the exchange rate – were not immediate, the prospect of leaving the EU may have made people worry about the possibility of their employer relocating, their eligibility to work, or the economy in general,” he says. Journal reference: BMJ Case Reports, DOI: doi:10.1136/bcr-2019-232363 More on these topics: mental health Brexit
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