Rats have an emotional impact similar to the threat of physical violence
Many people don't like rats and find them disgusting or repulsive. But apparently the mere presence of such animals is enough to trigger chronic feelings of sadness and fear in people. In a recent study, scientists have found that the pests can have an emotional effect on us similar to the threat of physical violence.
Rats have always been very unpopular animals. Humans fear these pests for various reasons. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health found in an investigation that the presence of rodents alone in humans can cause chronic anxiety and depression. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Journal of Community Psychology".
Scientists examine subjects from slums
For the study, the researchers examined data from over 448 residents in poor neighborhoods in Baltimore. The doctors recruited the subjects between March 2010 and December 2011. Half of the participants stated that they saw rats in their apartment block every week. 35 percent of the subjects even reported seeing the pests daily, the doctors say. Thirteen percent of the study participants saw rats in their home and five percent stated that the rodents were seen in their home almost every day. 32 percent of respondents believed that rats are a sign of poor neighborhood, the experts add.
People with a "rat problem" are more likely to develop acute depressive symptoms
According to the researchers, people who live in areas where there is a rat problem are mostly pessimistic about solving the rat problem themselves. In addition, those affected have little confidence that neighbors or city employees are successful in fighting rats, explains lead author Dr. Danielle German from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers found that people who saw rats in their neighborhood as a serious problem were 72 percent more likely to develop acute depressive symptoms compared to residents who lived in the same area, but the rats were not considered to be serious When looking at the problem, the experts explain.
Pests drive old women to suicide
Rats usually look for areas in their living space where they can live protected and have enough access to food. As a result, the pests mostly live in disadvantaged and poor communities, where there is little hygiene and many buildings are free, the researchers say.
Rats are not the only unwanted guests that can wreak havoc on the mental health of homeowners or tenants. Back in 2013, the American Journal of Case Reports published the case study of a 62-year-old woman who committed suicide after discovering bed bugs in her home. The woman said she had previously had psychological problems, including bipolar disorder and suspected personality disorder. Apparently the pests had given the woman the last rash to commit suicide. After waking up at 3 a.m., she discovered a bloodstain on her nightgown, then wrote a farewell letter and emailed her friend. In this message, she said that she can no longer live in fear of being eaten alive, the doctors say. The next morning she jumped to her death from her balcony on the 17th floor.
Psychosocial effects of pest infestation need to be examined more closely
The recent increase in parasitic diseases shows that measures should be taken quickly to control and eliminate pest infestation, the doctors explain. In addition, those affected have to be supported and advised. Scientists add that the psychosocial effects of rat infestation in urban areas need to be studied more closely to better understand the problem and find solutions. (as)