The mental health impact of bed bug infestations: A scoping review



*picture credit (slightly altered)

I am happy to introduce this guest blog post on our recenlty published scoping review on the mental health impact of bed bug infestations. This post was written by the study’s authors Rachelle Ashcroft (@rrashcroft) , Yukari Seko (@yukaseko), Lai Fong Chan, Jessica Dere , Jaemin Kim and Kwame McKenzie (@kwame_mckenzie). 

Please read, comment and share!


The inspiration for this scoping review article originated when the first five authors (R. A., Y. S., L. F. C., J. D., and J. K.) were all fellows in a training program focused on social determinants of mental health, under the direction of the last author (K. M.). As part of this fellowship, we had the opportunity to explore a wide range of social determinants, and to reflect upon the complexity that underlies the development of mental health concerns. One important topic that we discussed was that of housing and the links between living conditions and mental health. It was during this discussion that we began to focus upon the specific issue of bed bug infestations.


Stories about bed bugs have been increasingly common in the popular press in recent years, with stories of infestations in hotels, movie theatres, and people’s homes throughout urban centers in North America and elsewhere. Many of these news stories take as a given that encountering bed bugs is an anxiety-provoking experience, associated with such emotional responses as stress, disgust, and shame. It certainly seems fair to expect that dealing with a bed bug infestation would be a stressful and difficult experience. However, as mental health researchers, we began to wonder whether the link between bed bugs and mental health had in fact been studied. When an initial literature search turned up very few empirical articles, we decided to take a systematic approach in trying to determine the current state of knowledge about the mental health impact of bed bugs.


In the end, the results of our scoping review confirmed our initial impressions of the literature. Out of hundreds of English-language scholarly articles that reference bed bugs, we located 51 articles that included reference to mental health impacts. Among these, only five original research articles were identified. The majority of articles made reference to mental health symptoms such as distress, anxiety, and insomnia, without empirical evidence. In addition to general psychological symptoms, several articles also made reference to more serious psychiatric concerns such as paranoia and suicidal behaviour, and to specific diagnoses such as depression. Again, the majority of these references were anecdotal. The empirical evidence that does exist suggests that people who experience bed bug infestations are at risk of suffering from a range of serious mental health effects. It is our hope that this review can help to foster greater research interest in this topic among researchers from various mental health disciplines.



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I am happy that people are finally addressing this issue. A few years back I wrote Bed Bug Health Effects Physical and Mental Health Implications of Bed Bugs after years of answering our Bed Bug Crisis Hotline.

The long term emotional ramifications post bed bugs continues for years for some people.

We are all about public awareness and early detection. With education and early detection a lot of these emotional problems would not be happening.

We are always here to help in any way we can!
Denise Donovan
International Bed Bug Resource Authority Inc. 501 (c) 3
Books on Bed Bugs
SPANISH version now available!