Having a history of psychological distress can trigger long Covid, study finds

Signs of the disease may include breathing problems, brain fog, chronic cough, changes in taste and smell, overwhelming fatigue, difficulty performing functions of daily living, and sleep disturbances that may last. months or even years after the infection has cleared the body. .

People who have identified themselves as suffering from anxiety, depression or loneliness, or who felt extremely stressed or frequently worried about the coronavirus were more likely to live with Covid-19 for a long time, according to the study published this month in JAMA Psychiatry.

“We found that participants with two or more types of psychological distress prior to infection had a 50% higher risk of contracting long Covid,” said study co-author Dr. Siwen Wang, researcher in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public. Health in Boston.

“Having higher levels of psychological distress prior to Covid infection also increased the risk of getting long Covid by 50%,” Wang said. “These people also reported more symptoms seen in long Covid.”

It is possible that some could use the results of the study to support a hypothesis that post-Covid disease is psychosomatic, a common belief in the early days of the pandemic, said Dr. Wesley Ely, professor of medicine and critical care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He did not participate in the study.

Instead, the study’s message should be that people with existing psychological distress are closer to the “disaster” of long Covid, said Ely, co-director of Vanderbilt’s Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction and Survivorship Center.

“Imagine 10 people running a race and you give five people a head start,” Ely said. “These are the people who already had a mental health issue – they’re just closer to the unfortunate finish line of getting long Covid.”

The mind-body connection

The idea that mental distress can affect the body in negative ways is not new. It’s also a two-way street: having a chronic illness is strongly associated with the development of depression and other psychological disorders.

With common non-infectious disorders such as heart disease, “depression/anxiety/emotional distress seem to play a role,” said Dr. Joseph Bienvenu, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the faculty of medicine from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. , in an email. He did not participate in the study.

Long Covid can affect children of all ages, including infants, study finds
People with major depression can develop blood pressure problems and be more likely to have a heart attack. Chronic depression, stress, and anxiety have been linked to insomnia, and lack of quality sleep is a major culprit in the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other disorders.

And psychological distress has been shown to weaken the immune system, said study co-author Dr. Angela Roberts, associate professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Stanford University in California.

“Your brain and your immune system are very tightly interconnected,” Roberts said. “Studies have shown that when you’re depressed or anxious, your immune system doesn’t work as well against targets like viruses and bacteria.”

Some patients continue to suffer

To carry out the new study, the researchers worked with almost 55,000 people with no history of Covid-19 who were enrolled in three major longitudinal studies: the Nurses’ Health Study II, the Nurses’ Health Study 3 and the Growing Up Today. Study. Participants in these studies tend to be predominantly female and white, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to a larger population, according to the study.
Public health officials hope stories about the long Covid will motivate more young people to get vaccinated

Participants were asked about their mental health in April 2020, quite at the start of the pandemic. They continued to complete mental health surveys monthly for six months, then quarterly. After a year, the researchers narrowed the pool of subjects down to nearly 3,200 people who had developed Covid-19 and met the study conditions.

“This study is particularly interesting because participants’ baseline characteristics were independently assessed over time from their later Covid symptoms,” Johns Hopkins said. said Welcome.

Compared to people without mental distress, those with depression and loneliness were 1.32 times more likely to develop long Covid symptoms. Participants who were very worried about the coronavirus – mainly people of color, women and asthmatics – were 1.37 times more likely to develop long Covid, the study found.

Anxiety was associated with a higher risk – 1.42 times more likely – but people with higher levels of perceived stress were almost 50% more likely to develop post-Covid symptoms, said Wang, the co – author of the study.

All associations between psychological distress and long Covid remained important, even after researchers adjusted for demographics, body weight, smoking status, and history of asthma, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure or cholesterol.

In addition, all types of psychological distress except loneliness were linked to a higher risk of not being able to perform activities of daily living due to long periods of time. Covid symptoms.

People with depression were more likely to develop long Covid-19 symptoms, study finds.

While many long Covid cases are mild and resolve within months, other patients continue to suffer for an extended period. Some still haven’t regained their quality of life more than two years into the pandemic, according to Dr. Aaron Friedberg, a clinical assistant professor of internal medicine who works in the post-Covid recovery program at Wexner Medical Center in Washington. ‘Ohio State University in Columbus. .

“They can’t think, they can’t breathe. I have a person whose illness is so bad that they can’t practically get out of bed,” Friedberg told CNN in a previous interview. “I recently saw a person who is still not working due to Covid symptoms two years later.”

Comments are closed.