Almost 1 in 5 Covid-19 patients experience psychological complaints such as anxiety, depression or insomnia within three months of their diagnosis. This is evident from an analysis by the University of Oxford. Another striking finding is that those who previously had mental health problems were 65 percent more likely to have a corona infection than patients without a psychological history.
“This conclusion is unexpected and needs further investigation,” said Dr. Max Taquet of the National Institute for Health Research The Guardian. Taquet is a co-author of the research published in the scientific journal Lancet Psychiatry has been published. “In the meantime, psychiatric disorders should be added to the list of risk factors for Covid-19,” he says.
The scientists examined nearly 70 million US health records, including more than 62,000 patients who were diagnosed with Covid-19 between January 20 and August 1 of this year. 18.1 percent of those diagnosed with Covid-19 were also diagnosed with mental health problems fourteen to ninety days later. In 5.8 percent it was a first diagnosis of such complaints in their life. The researchers compared data from six other conditions over the same period: influenza, other respiratory infections, skin infections, gallstones, kidney stones and large fractures. In patients with these ailments, the percentage first diagnosed with a mental disorder within three months ranged from 2.5 to 3.4 percent. Thus, the corona patients were 5.8 percent, which corresponds to almost a doubling of the risk of developing mental health problems for those who contracted Covid-19.
Whether there is a direct link between the corona infection and the diagnosis of a mental disorder needs further investigation, emphasizes Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford University. For example, the current analysis does not take into account other factors that can influence psychological health, such as a person’s socio-economic background and the fact that someone smokes or uses drugs. The general stress associated with the corona pandemic could also play a role, according to Professor Harrison. “Although it may be plausible that Covid-19 has a direct effect on the brain and mental health, but that still needs to be demonstrated,” said Harrison.
The researchers also found a doubling of the diagnosis of dementia in patients diagnosed with Covid-19 three months earlier. According to Harrison, this could possibly be explained by a consultation in the hospital or with the general practitioner, which would not have taken place in the patients concerned without corona symptoms, but which now revealed their pre-existing dementia. “On the other hand, it is not at all unlikely that there is an effect of the virus on the brain in certain people that will cause certain more neurological symptoms and problems,” said Harrison.
According to David Curtis of University College London, who was not involved in this study, the psychological problems identified may also be related to the isolation of these Covid-19 patients and their understandable fear of becoming seriously ill.
British neurologists have previously warned of possible serious brain infections in patients with mild corona symptoms, after examining more than 40 Covid-19 patients. Other studies on the potential impact of the new coronavirus on the brain and central nervous system are still in the pipeline.
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