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COVID-19 increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders, new study says

Published on 12/11/20 at 12:33pm
Photo by Sander van der Wel from Netherlands

People who are infected with COVID-19 are at higher risk of developing depression, insomnia and anxiety for the first time, according to a new study. 

The study was funded by the National Institute of Health Research and published in The Lancet Psychiatry. It found that one in every 17 COVID-19 patients could be later diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. 

The study analysed the electronic health records from 69 million individuals, and 62,354 of these people had been infected with the virus, from 20 January to 1 August. It analysed the health records through the TriNetX Analytics Network, a federated network that has anonymised health data from 54 healthcare organisations in the US. 

The results showed that a diagnosis of COVID-19 was associated with increased incidents of a first psychiatric diagnosis in the following 14 to 90 days compared with six other health events. The incidence of any psychiatric diagnosis in the 14 to 90 days after COVID-19 diagnosis was 18.1%

The study concluded: “Our findings are of sufficient robustness and magnitude to have some immediate implications. The figures provide minimum estimates of the excess in psychiatric morbidity to be anticipated in survivors of COVID-19 and for which services need to plan.”

Going forward, the study feels more research is needed to explore additional psychiatric risk factors of coronavirus. It says: “As COVID-19 sample sizes and survival times increase, it will be possible to refine these findings and to identify rarer and delayed psychiatric presentations. Prospective cohort studies and inclusive case registers will be valuable to complement electronic health record analyses. It will also be important to explore additional risk factors for contracting COVID-19, and for developing psychiatric disorders thereafter, as some elements might prove to be modifiable.”

Conor Kavanagh

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