COVID-19 increases risk of psychiatric diagnoses in months after infection, study finds

A recent study from Oregon State University found that patients with COVID-19 had about a 25% increased risk of developing a psychiatric disorder within four months of being infected, compared to people who had other types of respiratory tract infections.

The results support previous research on psychiatric disorders in post-COVID patients, although the current study found a smaller effect than previous studies, said co-author Lauren Chan, who holds a Ph.D. nutrition student at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.

For the present study, published in global psychiatry, researchers used data from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) to match 46,610 COVID-19 positive people with control patients who were diagnosed with different respiratory tract infections so they could compare how COVID was affecting specifically patient mental health.

They looked at the rate of psychiatric diagnoses during two time periods: 21 to 120 days after patients were diagnosed with COVID, and 120 to 365 days after diagnosis, limited to patients without prior mental illness.

The researchers found that COVID patients had a 3.8% rate of developing a psychiatric disorder compared to 3.0% for other respiratory tract infections. The difference of 0.8% equates to an increased relative risk of about 25%.

They looked specifically at anxiety disorders and mood disorders and found a small but significant increase in the risk of anxiety disorders and no change in the risk of mood disorders.

The large sample size and the fact that this cohort of data came from across the United States gave researchers a unique window into post-COVID side effects, Chan said.

The findings speak to the need for patients and healthcare providers to be more proactive when it comes to addressing mental health issues after COVID infection, she said.

“For people who’ve had COVID, if you’re feeling anxiety, if you’re seeing changes in your life from a psychiatric perspective, it’s totally appropriate for you to seek help,” he said. said Chan. “And if you’re a care provider, you need to be proactive and start screening for these psychiatric disorders and then following these patients.”

When patients leave a doctor’s office, care sometimes stops there, but Chan recommended providers consider calling in two weeks for a check-in.

“There could definitely be people out there struggling with new things like this, and they need that extra support or that push to seek help,” she said. “I don’t want to say that every person who gets COVID is going to have this type of problem, but if you start to worry about yourself or a family member, it’s not uncommon. You absolutely have to seek treatment. or others around you.”

In the broader context of COVID and health care in the United States, any increase in the number of people seeking care, especially psychiatric care, will add further pressure to a system that is already stretched to capacity, a said Chan.

“We’ve had trouble identifying a professional to work with before, and we’re going to continue to have trouble getting people the care they need,” she said. “If we see this kind of increase in post-COVID psychiatric conditions, and people are recognizing them and trying to seek treatment, that is of some concern.”

The study’s lead author, Ben Coleman, of the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, is already working on a follow-up paper that seeks to assess the association between symptoms of long COVID and recent-onset mental illness.

Source of the story:

Material provided by Oregon State University. Original written by Molly Rosbach. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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