1 in 5 covid-19 survivors likely to get anxiety and depression: Study

Published on: 10 November 2020, 19:02 pm IST
This large-scale study reveals that covid-19 can affect the brain in such a manner that it can trigger psychiatric illnesses, including depression and anxiety.
Covid-19 can screw up your mental health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

By now we know that covid-19 can have major implications on respiratory, neurological, and cardiovascular health of its victims. And while we know that the pandemic has had mental health implications for most of us, medical research is now proving how covid-19 can induce mental health ailments in survivors.

According a large-scale study, 20% of those infected with the coronavirus are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days.

Anxiety, depression and insomnia were most common among recovered covid-19 patients in the study who developed mental health problems. The researchers also found significantly higher risks of dementia, a brain impairment condition in patients.

This is how the study was conducted 

“People have been worried that covid-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings … show this to be likely,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Britain’s Oxford University.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, analysed electronic health records of 69 million people in the United States, including more than 62,000 cases of covid-19.

In the three months following testing positive for covid-19, 1 in 5 survivors were recorded as having a first time diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia. This was about twice as likely as for other groups of patients in the same period, the researchers said.

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Covid-19 can affect the brain and trigger psychiatric illnesses

The study also found that people with a pre-existing mental illness were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with covid-19 than those without.

Mental health specialists not directly involved with the study said its findings add to growing evidence that covid-19 can affect the brain and mind, increasing the risk of a range of psychiatric illnesses.

“This is likely due to a combination of the psychological stressors associated with this particular pandemic and the physical effects of the illness,” said Michael Bloomfield, a consultant psychiatrist at University College London.

The pandemic can really affect your mental health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Simon Wessely, regius professor of psychiatry at King’s College London, said the finding that those with mental health disorders are also at higher risk of getting COVID-19 echoed similar findings in previous infectious disease outbreaks.

“Covid-19 affects the central nervous system, and so might directly increase subsequent disorders. But this research confirms that is not the whole story, and that this risk is increased by previous ill health,” he said.

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