Mass hysteria among student performers: Social relationship as a symptom predictor

Gary W. Small, Michael W. Propper, Eugenia T. Randolph, Spencer Eth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: In April 1989 an outbreak of illness suddenly afflicted student performers in Santa Monica, Calif., and an extensive investigation revealed no environmental cause. To clarify the details of the epidemic and determine whether mass hysteria occurred, the authors examined physical, psychological, and social factors that might have contributed to the outbreak. Method: Participating middle- and high-school performers were surveyed; 9.3% (N=519) responded; cases were defined as students who had one or more symptoms during the outbreak. A stepwise logistic regression analysis was used to determine significant predictors of illness. Results: Characteristic features of mass hysteria were present, including preponderance of illness in girls, symptom transmission by sight or sound, presence of hyperventilation, and evidence of psychological or physical stress. Symptomatic and asymptomatic groups differed in frequency of several physical and psychological variables, but observing a friend become sick was the best predictor of the development of symptoms. Conclusions: These results confirm earlier research demonstrating multiple psychological and physical factors that contribute to such outbreaks, particularly symptom transmission through social networks. Investigators should explore social transmission as an additional characteristic feature of mass hysteria in order to facilitate early identification of future outbreaks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1200-1205
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Volume148
Issue number9
StatePublished - Dec 1 1991
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Hysteria
Disease Outbreaks
Students
Psychology
Hyperventilation
Social Support
Logistic Models
Regression Analysis
Research Personnel
Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

Cite this

Mass hysteria among student performers : Social relationship as a symptom predictor. / Small, Gary W.; Propper, Michael W.; Randolph, Eugenia T.; Eth, Spencer.

In: American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 148, No. 9, 01.12.1991, p. 1200-1205.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Small, Gary W. ; Propper, Michael W. ; Randolph, Eugenia T. ; Eth, Spencer. / Mass hysteria among student performers : Social relationship as a symptom predictor. In: American Journal of Psychiatry. 1991 ; Vol. 148, No. 9. pp. 1200-1205.
@article{5294959d175b4c25b78f62442d0bd4c9,
title = "Mass hysteria among student performers: Social relationship as a symptom predictor",
abstract = "Objective: In April 1989 an outbreak of illness suddenly afflicted student performers in Santa Monica, Calif., and an extensive investigation revealed no environmental cause. To clarify the details of the epidemic and determine whether mass hysteria occurred, the authors examined physical, psychological, and social factors that might have contributed to the outbreak. Method: Participating middle- and high-school performers were surveyed; 9.3{\%} (N=519) responded; cases were defined as students who had one or more symptoms during the outbreak. A stepwise logistic regression analysis was used to determine significant predictors of illness. Results: Characteristic features of mass hysteria were present, including preponderance of illness in girls, symptom transmission by sight or sound, presence of hyperventilation, and evidence of psychological or physical stress. Symptomatic and asymptomatic groups differed in frequency of several physical and psychological variables, but observing a friend become sick was the best predictor of the development of symptoms. Conclusions: These results confirm earlier research demonstrating multiple psychological and physical factors that contribute to such outbreaks, particularly symptom transmission through social networks. Investigators should explore social transmission as an additional characteristic feature of mass hysteria in order to facilitate early identification of future outbreaks.",
author = "Small, {Gary W.} and Propper, {Michael W.} and Randolph, {Eugenia T.} and Spencer Eth",
year = "1991",
month = "12",
day = "1",
language = "English",
volume = "148",
pages = "1200--1205",
journal = "American Journal of Psychiatry",
issn = "0002-953X",
publisher = "American Psychiatric Association",
number = "9",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Mass hysteria among student performers

T2 - Social relationship as a symptom predictor

AU - Small, Gary W.

AU - Propper, Michael W.

AU - Randolph, Eugenia T.

AU - Eth, Spencer

PY - 1991/12/1

Y1 - 1991/12/1

N2 - Objective: In April 1989 an outbreak of illness suddenly afflicted student performers in Santa Monica, Calif., and an extensive investigation revealed no environmental cause. To clarify the details of the epidemic and determine whether mass hysteria occurred, the authors examined physical, psychological, and social factors that might have contributed to the outbreak. Method: Participating middle- and high-school performers were surveyed; 9.3% (N=519) responded; cases were defined as students who had one or more symptoms during the outbreak. A stepwise logistic regression analysis was used to determine significant predictors of illness. Results: Characteristic features of mass hysteria were present, including preponderance of illness in girls, symptom transmission by sight or sound, presence of hyperventilation, and evidence of psychological or physical stress. Symptomatic and asymptomatic groups differed in frequency of several physical and psychological variables, but observing a friend become sick was the best predictor of the development of symptoms. Conclusions: These results confirm earlier research demonstrating multiple psychological and physical factors that contribute to such outbreaks, particularly symptom transmission through social networks. Investigators should explore social transmission as an additional characteristic feature of mass hysteria in order to facilitate early identification of future outbreaks.

AB - Objective: In April 1989 an outbreak of illness suddenly afflicted student performers in Santa Monica, Calif., and an extensive investigation revealed no environmental cause. To clarify the details of the epidemic and determine whether mass hysteria occurred, the authors examined physical, psychological, and social factors that might have contributed to the outbreak. Method: Participating middle- and high-school performers were surveyed; 9.3% (N=519) responded; cases were defined as students who had one or more symptoms during the outbreak. A stepwise logistic regression analysis was used to determine significant predictors of illness. Results: Characteristic features of mass hysteria were present, including preponderance of illness in girls, symptom transmission by sight or sound, presence of hyperventilation, and evidence of psychological or physical stress. Symptomatic and asymptomatic groups differed in frequency of several physical and psychological variables, but observing a friend become sick was the best predictor of the development of symptoms. Conclusions: These results confirm earlier research demonstrating multiple psychological and physical factors that contribute to such outbreaks, particularly symptom transmission through social networks. Investigators should explore social transmission as an additional characteristic feature of mass hysteria in order to facilitate early identification of future outbreaks.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0025834030&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0025834030&partnerID=8YFLogxK

M3 - Article

C2 - 1882998

AN - SCOPUS:0025834030

VL - 148

SP - 1200

EP - 1205

JO - American Journal of Psychiatry

JF - American Journal of Psychiatry

SN - 0002-953X

IS - 9

ER -