Study: COVID-19 diagnosis doubles risk of new mental illness

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns have been raised about its effect on mental health, and a new study published in The Lancet Psychiatry suggests that COVID-19 survivors have a significantly higher rate of psychiatric disorders, dementia and insomnia.

Researchers captured data from the records of 54 health care organizations in the United States, totaling nearly 70 million patients, including 62,000 cases of the coronavirus.

“In patients with no previous psychiatric history, a diagnosis of COVID-19 was associated with increased incidence of a first psychiatric diagnosis in the following 14 to 90 days,” the study authors wrote.

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In the three months following a patient’s positive COVID-19 diagnosis, findings showed the incidence of any psychiatric diagnosis was 18.1%.

According to the study, 5.8% of COVID-19 survivors had their first diagnosis of psychiatric illness, compared with 2.5-3.4% of patients in the comparison cohorts.

“Thus, adults have an approximately doubled risk of being newly diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder after COVID-19 diagnosis,” the study’s authors wrote.

The study also suggested that individuals with a pre-existing mental illness were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those without.

In addition, 1 in 5 survivors were recorded as having a first time diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia.

“Survivors of COVID-19 appear to be at increased risk of psychiatric sequelae, and a psychiatric diagnosis might be an independent risk factor for COVID-19,” the study’s authors wrote. “As COVID-19 sample sizes and survival times increase, it will be possible to refine these findings and to identify rarer and delayed psychiatric presentation.”

This study echoes other research this year that has suggested that patients with COVID-19 have symptoms of anxiety — including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and insomnia.

“I think this year in particular has really brought people face to face with so much that they may have not dealt with in the past,” Dr. Isaiah Pickens, a licensed clinical psychologist and CEO of iOpening Enterprises, said.

Data in one study found that 22.5% of COVID-19 patients, among 40,469 diagnosed, had neuropsychiatric manifestations.

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And even those who may not have been diagnosed with COVID-19 are still feeling its impacts psychologically. According to an August survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of Americans are struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

According to the CDC, during June 24-30, U.S. adults reported considerably elevated adverse mental health conditions associated with COVID-19, and symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.