1 in 5 COVID-19 patients is experiencing mental health concerns after virus diagnosis.
Researchers have found that COVID-19 has long-lasting effects on mental health. A study published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry by researchers at the University of Oxford and the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre shows that about 1 in 5 people diagnosed with COVID-19 is later diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder, including depression, anxiety, dementia, and insomnia within three months.
The team analyzed records from 69.8 million patients in the United States; 62,354 of them had been diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 20 and August 1, 2020.
Researchers found that patients with no previous psychiatric history had an increased incidence of first psychiatric diagnosis 14 to 90 days after having COVID-19. In fact, their research found that adults have “an approximately doubled risk of being newly diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder after COVID-19 diagnosis.”
People who have had COVID-19 are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder than those who had influenza. The study also found that those with a previously diagnosed psychiatric illness have been associated with a higher risk of being diagnosed with COVID-19. In fact, it was determined that people with a psychiatric diagnosis were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those without a previous psychiatric diagnosis, according to the study.
The psychiatric effects of COVID-19 are broad, and not uniform, says the research team. The data showed increased diagnosis in all major anxiety disorder categories, bringing up questions of how post-COVID-19 anxiety will affect patients.
It is unclear why a previous mental health diagnosis would increase the risk for COVID-19, however, those results are in line with another study that used data from an electronic U.S. health network. Both studies confirm an increased risk of COIVD-19 for those with mental disorders. The study also showed that there is an increased risk of a mental health disorder in COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized than someone who was not hospitalized.
"That was within just the first three months. We, of course, don't know, in longer-term follow-ups, whether these risks will go on increasing — or whether once you get to three months, then the risks after you've had COVID really go back to the baseline risks that all of us experience," said Paul Harrison, Oxford University professor of psychiatry and one of the authors of the study.
More research needs to be done, and as more time passes, patients can be monitored to see if the mental health conditions improve. In some cases, it is possible an underlying condition became apparent during treatment for COVID-19; in others, the condition may have been triggered by the virus diagnosis.
It is important that anyone experiencing mental health concerns seek help and treatment. Reach out to friends, family, and health professionals.