New Study Suggests COVID Patients More Susceptible To Mental Illness

Grant Boone
November 16, 2020

Researchers tracked the patients three months after their COVID-19 diagnosis and compared their mental health diagnoses to those of thousands of other patients with differing conditions, such as the flu and broken bones.

Almost one in five people is diagnosed with a psychiatric condition within three months of contracting coronavirus - double the usual rate from other illnesses, a study has shown.

The study, published this week in the Lancet Psychiatry journal, analysed the electronic health records of 69 million people in the USA including 62,000 people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Researchers also found that there was a higher risk of dementia in those who recover from the virus.

The most common psychiatric illness diagnosis among COVID-19 patients was anxiety, including adjustment disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers say COVID-19 survivors may be at greater risk of developing mental health issues than other people.

"More than 100 years have passed since the worldwide influenza pandemic that resulted in a markedly increased rate of neurological and psychiatric" after-effects of the disease, Robert Yolken of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, wrote in an accompanying commentary in the journal.

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"(Health) services need to be ready to provide care, especially since our results are likely to be underestimates of the actual number of cases.

For their study, the researchers analyzed health records of around 70 million patients from the US, including more than 62,000 cases where patients were diagnosed with COVID but did not require an emergency room visit or a hospital stay. "We urgently need research to investigate the causes and identify new treatments", he added.

"It is hard from a study like this to determine the specific relationship between the psychiatric symptoms and the COVID-19 diagnosis", she told the National Interest.

Studies on the impact of the coronavirus to the brain are already underway.

"This is likely due to a combination of the psychological stressors associated with this particular pandemic and the physical effects of the illness, although further work is needed to understand this fully". The findings in this research are likely to be applicable to those affected by COVID-19 globally.

"But this research confirms that is not the whole story, and that this risk is increased by previous ill health".

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