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1 in 5 coronavirus patients develop mental illness within 90 days

By Alexandra Kelley | Nov. 10, 2020

New research suggests that people who have survived COVID-19 infections are at a greater risk of developing mental illness. 

This data, published in The Lancet Psychiatry Journal, indicates that 18 percent of observed COVID-19 patients are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder such as anxiety, depression or insomnia within 90 days after being diagnosed.

Researchers analyzed data from about 69 million people, 62,354 of whom were COVID-19 patients, to see if they were at an increased risk of psychiatric diagnoses following the infection as opposed to people with other health complications. 

The results suggest that COVID-19 patients saw greater post-illness diagnoses of anxiety disorder, insomnia and even dementia, as opposed to patients who were sick with influenza or other respiratory tract infection similar to COVID-19.

Anxiety disorders were the most common diagnoses following an infection, with dementia only occurring in patients older than age 65.

More severe psychotic disorders, which have potential to severely compromise everyday cognition, were less commonly seen.

To rule out any lurking variables that could alter the conclusion, such as people who are predisposed to mental illness being more vulnerable to a COVID-19 infection, researchers looked at preexisting studies. Limited associations between mental illness and COVID-19 susceptibility were discovered.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, concluded that while the data is preliminary, the findings encourage further analysis into the psychiatric effects of the coronavirus.

“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 authors wrote.

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