18% of COVID Survivors Diagnosed With Mental Illness

And that's just within 3 months of positive test, per a new study
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 10, 2020 9:40 AM CST
COVID Survivors at Higher Risk of Mental Illness
COVID-19 survivors are twice as likely to be diagnosed with a first-time mental illness than others, study finds.   (Getty Images/graphixchon)

New research suggests the coronavirus takes a toll on a person's mental health as well as their physical health, with 18% of people diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days of testing positive for COVID-19. That compares to about 13% of those who suffered from the flu or a bone fracture, per the BBC. Nearly 6% of COVID-19 survivors were diagnosed with an illness such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia for the first time within 90 days, meaning they had about twice the risk of mental illness compared with patients with the flu or a fracture. University of Oxford researchers reviewed health records of 69 million people in the US, including 62,354 people diagnosed with COVID-19 who didn't visit a hospital, and also found people with a preexisting mental illness were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those without, per the Guardian.

Though the records didn't include socioeconomic information, people from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be exposed to the coronavirus and to suffer mental illness. It's also possible that a doctor may become aware of preexisting conditions when dealing with someone who has COVID-19. Researchers not involved in the study add that poor psychological outcomes are common in people who experience physical health problems, and COVID-19 survivors faced the added difficulty of a period in isolation, per the BBC and Guardian. But "it's not at all unlikely that there may also be a brain effect of the virus in certain people that is going to cause certain more neurological symptoms and difficulties," says Oxford psychiatry professor Paul Harrison, whose study is published in The Lancet Psychiatry. He urges health services to prepare for a possible onslaught, per Reuters. (See more on mental health in the pandemic here.)

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