Long-term risk of developing mental disorders revealed in Covid-19 survivors

(ORDO NEWS) — More than 13 million person-years of follow-up of 153,848 Covid-19 survivors and comparisons with almost 12 million controls have shown that a month after being infected with coronavirus, such patients are at increased risk of developing mental disorders.

A team of American scientists from the Center for Clinical Epidemiology of Virginia, St. Louis University, the St. Louis Veterans Research and Education Foundation and Washington University confirmed that Covid-19 for at least a year from the moment of infection with coronavirus is associated with an increased risk of mental disorders characterized by depression , anxiety, sleep disturbances and substance use.

Some previous studies have already reported that patients who survive the acute stage of coronavirus infections (caused not only by SARS-CoV-2, but also by SARS and MERS) have some common mental disorders and may experience anxiety and depression, but scientists did not analyze long-term effects and did not conduct a comprehensive assessment.

The authors of the new work took data from the national databases of the US Department of Veterans Affairs and, based on them, formed a cohort of 153,848 people who had Covid-19 from March 2020 to January 2021. They were mostly white men over 60.

They were divided into two categories: those who did not require hospitalization (132,852 people), and those who were admitted to the hospital with the acute phase of Covid-19 (20,996).

There were two control groups: in the first – 5,637,840 people who did not encounter coronavirus, in the second (“historical”) – 5,859,251 people, information on which was collected in 2017-2019, that is, before the pandemic.

Additionally, we studied data on 72,207 people who had seasonal flu from October 2017 to the end of February 2020 (11,924 patients were hospitalized).

The frequency of each mental health outcome (including physician-prescribed medications) was assessed 30 days after testing positive for Covid-19.

Participants in the two years before the start of the observation had no history of diseases that they subsequently encountered. The researchers also took into account age, race, gender, body mass index, bad habits (smoking), comorbidities, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

It turned out that compared with those who avoided infection with SARS-CoV-2, people who recovered from Covid-19 had an increased risk of anxiety disorders by 1.35 times, which is equivalent to 11 additional cases per 1000 people in a year; depressive disorders – by 1.39 times (burden – 15.12 per 1000 people a year later), adaptation and stress disorders – by 1.38 times (13.29 per 1000 people).

Long term risk of developing mental disorders revealed in Covid 19 survivors 2

They were also more likely to take antidepressants (1.55 times more likely, burden 21.59 per 1,000 people a year later) and benzodiazepine tranquilizers (1.65 times more risk, burden 10.46 per 1,000 people). These patients were 1.76 times more likely to be prescribed opioids, which made them 1.34 times more likely to have disorders due to their use.

Those who contracted SARS-CoV-2 were 1.24 times more likely to have taken illegal substances. The risk of encountering conditions associated with alcohol abuse was increased by 1.29 times, and due to the use of sedatives or hypnotics – by 1.40 times.

Covid-19 survivors were also more likely to have cognitive decline (1.80 times higher probability, burden 10.75 per 1,000 people a year later) and sleep disorders (1.41 times, burden 23.80 per 1,000 people).

“The risks of the studied outcomes were increased even among individuals who were not admitted to hospital. But they were highest in patients who required hospitalization.

People admitted to hospital with Covid-19 showed a higher likelihood of unintended mental health outcomes than those admitted to hospital for any other reason.

The results were consistent with the results of comparison with the “historical” control group (before the pandemic. — Approx. ed.) , ”the scientists note. Covid-19 survivors have also been shown to be at a higher risk of psychiatric disorders than those who have had seasonal flu.

This is an observational study, so it is not possible to determine the reason for the association of coronavirus with the above conditions. However, according to the authors, their results are reliable and confirm that patients who survive the acute phase of coronavirus infection may develop mental illness.

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