The risk to mental health increases for COVID-19 survivors
The risk to mental health increases for COVID-19 survivors

The risk to mental health increases for COVID-19 survivors

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Mental health risk increases even after mild COVID-19. Jonathan Knowles / Getty Images
  • A study that tracks COVID-19 survivors found that they were more likely to develop mental health problems than other people during the year after diagnosis.
  • The researchers saw an increased risk even for them if COVID-19 was mild enough that they did not require hospitalization.
  • Conditions that the researchers examined included anxiety, depression, opioid use, and cognitive decline.

Researchers continue to investigate the long-term health effects of COVID-19, or “lang COVID. ”

Using databases from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a new study catalogs a number of mental health issues in the 12 months following a SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The study shows that people who have survived COVID-19 have an increased risk of mental health problems in the first year after the disease.

The study’s senior researcher is Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, head of research and development services at the VA Saint Louis Health Care System and a clinical epidemiologist and assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis. Louis. In a opinion polls published with the research, he says:

“Gathered evidence of long-term COVID – from our work and others – suggests the need to reformulate our thinking about SARS-CoV-2. It is not just a respiratory virus; it is a systemic virus that can cause damage and clinical consequences in almost all organ systems – including mental disorders and neurocognitive decline. “

Psychiatrist Dr. Maura Boldrini from Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City is the lead author of the article “How COVID-19 affects the brain“She commented on the new study for Medical news today:

“This is a large study that sheds light on the incidence of symptoms that reflect brain involvement in post-COVID patients. These symptoms can be classified according to [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] into psychiatric categories, but their pathogenesis is unknown. “

Dr. Noordje Uphoff is a researcher at the University of York in the United Kingdom and lead author of a related review published in August 2021.

“The strengths of the study,” Dr. Uphoff MNT“is that many patients are included, COVID-19 patients are compared with people without signs of infection, and data were collected for one year. While many studies measure mental health outcomes such as self-reported symptoms, this study used medical records of diagnoses and recipes. “

The new study appears in BMJ. Neither Dr. Boldrini or Dr. Uphoff was involved in the new investigation.

The researchers analyzed health data from 153,848 veterans who had survived 30 days or more after receiving a positive PCR test result between March 1, 2020 and January 15, 2021. The research team followed their health until November 30, 2021.

The researchers also collected data from two control groups: 5,637,840 veterans who had not received SARS-CoV-2 during the same period, and 5,859,251 individuals who used the Veterans Health Administration in a pre-pandemic period.

Dr. Uphoff warned MNT:

“As the study’s authors point out, their study sample was not representative of populations around the world. These were retired veterans, mostly white men, who had access to health care.”

The authors of the study calculated post-COVID-19 incidence of developing various mental health problems by comparing the results for COVID-19 survivors with the results for the control groups.

The total risk of developing mental health problems increased to 64.38 additional cases per year. 1,000 people after 1 year.

The researchers reported the following increased risk of accidental cases of mental health per. 1,000 people a year after COVID-19:

  • anxiety disorders: 11.06 further cases
  • depressive disorders: 15.12 additional cases
  • stress and adaptive disorders: 13.29 additional cases
  • the use of antidepressants: 21.59 additional cases
  • the use of benzodiazepines: 10.46 additional cases
  • opioid prescriptions: 35.90 additional cases
  • opioid use disorders: 0.96 additional cases
  • other (non-opioid) substance use disorders: 4.34 additional cases
  • neurocognitive decline: 10.75 additional cases
  • sleep disorders: 23.80 additional cases.

While the risk was higher for those hospitalized because of COVID-19, the study also found that “risks were evident even among those who were not hospitalized in the acute phase of COVID-19.”

“The symptoms are most likely due to encephalitis,” said Dr. Boldrini.

“We know that encephalitis is present in severe depressive disorder and dementia,” she continued, “and brain symptoms are found in other inflammatory diseases such as. [systemic lupus erythematosus]. Even in people with mild COVID-19, there may be a prolonged inflammatory response that disrupts brain vasculature and neurotransmitter synthesis, including serotonin. “

Dr. Uphoff suggested stress as an additional potential factor, saying: “It’s easy to imagine why infection with [SARS-CoV-2] could cause distress. “

Dr. Uphoff added: “Not only do many patients experience symptoms of illness, ranging from inconvenient to severe, but self-isolation at home causes disruption to people’s lives. On top of this, concerns about transmitting the infection to their loved ones and the potential severity of the disease are likely to affect well-being. at least in the short term. “

“As doctors,” said Dr. Boldrini, “we need to better understand the mechanisms of vascular stroke and chronic inflammation and their damage to the brain so we can repair it.”

Dr. Boldrini concluded with a prayer for help:

“As patients, I would encourage people to volunteer for research studies – clinical and cerebral imaging – and in the event of death, it is crucial that families donate the brain to research so that we can study it. Medicine has made the greatest progress [studying] human organs after death. That’s what we do in my lab. We need brains to be donated so we can understand the mechanisms behind brain diseases and find new treatments. “

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