Mental health issues have been exacerbated by the social isolation, economic stress, loss of loved ones, and other struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A new study, Mental Health in People with COVID-19, published in the journal The BMJ, suggests that COVID-19 infection itself may increase the risk of individuals developing mental health problems.
The study analyzed health records of nearly 154,000 COVID-19 patients in the Veterans Health Administration system and compared their mental health state a year later to a similar group of people who had not contracted the virus. The test group of those who had contracted COVID-19 a year before follow-up only included patients who had no mental health diagnoses or treatment within the two years prior to their infection.
The study results show that people who had COVID-19 were 39% more likely to be diagnosed with depression, and 35% more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than those who did not have COVID-19 over the same period. This increase in risk was also apparent in diagnoses of stress and adjustment disorders and sleep disorders, with those who had COVID-19 being 38% and 41% more likely to be diagnosed with these disorders, respectively, than their uninfected counterparts.
Dr. Paul Harrison, a Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford who authored a similar study in 2021, six-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236,379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records, said that the new research results echo his. As quoted on nytimes.com, Dr. Harrison said, "There appears to be a clear excess of mental health diagnoses in the months after COVID . . . it strengthens the case that there is something about COVID that is leaving people at greater risk of common mental health conditions."
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