A new study shows that people who have contracted COVID-19 are at increased risk of suffering from anxiety, depression and other forms of mental illness.
Researchers are now urging that healthcare be prepared to catch everyone at risk.
The risk of mental illness increased after COVID-19, even after an illness that was not so severe that it required hospital care. Photo gallery.
The risk of mental illness was higher among those requiring hospital care for covid-19, but increased even after milder illness, according to the study conducted in the USA.
Researchers stress that given the number of people affected worldwide, health care systems and politicians must be prepared to support the large group at risk of developing mental illness as a result.
“It is very important to address these issues now before they turn into major crises in the future,” the study’s lead author, Ziad Al-Ali, said in a commentary.
I followed a lot
The researchers are affiliated, among others, with Saint Louis University in the United States and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Affairs.
The study included just over 153,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19 during the first year of the epidemic, and were compared to people who did not have COVID-19. They were all part of a database of American veterans, which means that most of them were older men.
Participants were followed for a year to investigate risks for, among other things, anxiety disorders, depression, addiction-related illnesses, and sleep disturbances.
It turns out that the group who had covid-19 had a 60% greater risk of being diagnosed with any of these problems or of being prescribed medication, compared to those who did not have the disease. This corresponds to 64 “extra” cases per 1,000 people, according to results published in the scientific journal BMJ.
Anxiety and sleep problems
Upon closer examination of different types of mental problems, researchers saw that Covid disease, for example, was associated with a 39 percent higher risk of depression, a 35 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 41 percent higher risk of sleep problems, compared to With those who are not infected.
The risk of developing various types of mental illness was also higher after COVID-19 than after regular seasonal influenza.
It is already known that factors such as isolation, uncertainty, and threats to our ordinary lives are associated with increased levels of mental illness. However, it is not clear what role the infection itself plays, according to Karen Brocki, a professor in the Department of Psychology at Uppsala University.
It conducts research on mental illness during the pandemic in Sweden, and recently investigated the prevalence of depression, anxiety and difficulty sleeping in people with long-term symptoms, the so-called long-term virus.
The study has yet to be published, but preliminary results show that the group was at increased risk for all three health outcomes, says Karen Brocki. But then it’s specifically about people who have persistent problems, unlike the US study that doesn’t distinguish people with long-term COVID-19 disease who “only” have COVID-19 on a regular basis.
This means that it is not possible to say whether the increase in mental illness is caused by possible long-term symptoms of covid-19 that affect mood negatively, for example through decreased quality of life and function, or whether it is something related to the infection. herself, says Karen Brooke.
The US researchers also wrote that it is uncertain how COVID-19 increases the risk of mental illness. These could be biological explanations such as the central nervous system or parts of the brain that are affected when the immune system reacts to the virus. But also in relation to a suspension of life as a result of infection – eg a changed work situation, money problems, social isolation, or you reduced your mobility or ate worse, for example.
Karen Brooke believes this may be a combination of biological and psychosocial explanations.
— but it remains to be seen, and therefore it is important to continue to map mental illness now that we have entered a more normal lifespan, says Karen Brocki.
Facts: The American Study
The study included more than 153,000 people who survived at least 30 days after showing a positive PCR test for covid-19 between March 2020 and January 2021, before the arrival of vaccines.
They were compared to half a million people who did not test positive during the same period, and to half a million people where researchers looked at data from before the pandemic.
They were all part of a database of American veterans, most of whom were older men. Therefore, it is difficult to prove that the results also apply to other groups, which is a lack of study. It cannot prove any causation because it is an observational study.
It also cannot be excluded that people who contracted COVID-19 to a greater degree than the control group were affected by mental illness earlier in their lives – a risk factor for re-affection.
One of the study’s strengths is that the researchers followed a large group of people for longer than previous studies.
Source: BMJ and Karin Brocki, Professor at Uppsala University.
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