A fifth receive mental health diagnosis after Covid-19 infection


Almost one in five people who test positive for Covid-19 are diagnosed with a psychiatric condition within the following three months, an Oxford University study has found.

Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, the study found that one fifth of Covid-19 survivors in the USA were diagnosed with anxiety, depression or insomnia for the first time in the months following infection – about twice as likely as patient groups who did not have the virus over the same period.

The virus was also associated with more new psychiatric diagnoses in people who had a history of mental ill health, as well as dementia diagnoses.

The findings were based on data from the TriNetX electronic health records of 69 million people in the USA, including over 62,000 cases of Covid-19.

Paul Harrison, professor of psychiatry at University Oxford, and theme lead at NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, said: “People have been worried that Covid-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings in a large and detailed study show this to be likely. Services need to be ready to provide care, especially since our results are likely to be underestimates of the actual number of cases. We urgently need research to investigate the causes and identify new treatments.”

Meanwhile, a separate worldwide study has found one in three adults in the UK have seen stress, loneliness and anger worsen during the pandemic.

The COH-FIT – ‘Collaborative Outcomes study on Health and Functioning during Infection Times’ – has so far collected data from more than 105,000 people around the world on their mental and physical wellbeing, access to care and coping strategies, during and after the pandemic.

The survey’s UK data shows a third of respondents reported worsening stress levels, while about one in seven reported improvement before the crisis and the last two weeks. Some 40% more women than men reported that their stress levels had worsened.

In terms of loneliness, one-third said they felt lonelier this year. Women and young adults were more likely to state this.

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