Article By: Robert Hart
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One in five Covid-19 patients are diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months
In another worrying set of findings for the long-term impact of Covid-19, a new peer reviewed study has confirmed reported links between psychiatric illness and Covid-19, with nearly one in five Covid-19 patients developing a mental illness within three months of testing positive for the virus and those with pre-existing mental conditions being 65% more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19, even accounting for other risk factors.
By examining the health records of 69 million people in the U.S., including over 62,000 Covid-19 patients, researchers from the University of Oxford and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre found evidence that Covid-19 increases a person’s risk of developing psychiatric illness, with one in five receiving a diagnosis within three months of testing positive.
Covid-19 patients were compared to those with other medical issues — including those with other respiratory infections, bone fractures, flu and skin infections — over time to ensure any changes in psychiatric diagnoses could be linked with the infection.
Not all mental illnesses were more likely to be seen in Covid-19 patients, the researchers said, with rates of anxiety, depression and insomnia most elevated.
The researchers said they found no clear signs of newly diagnosed psychotic disorders in Covid-19 patients, which includes schizophrenia, though they did note the higher likelihood of relapse in patients already living with the conditions.
There was also an “unexpected” finding in the research, indicating that those with a pre-existing psychiatric illness are 65% more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19, even when other factors are accounted for.
Dr. Max Taquet, one of the researchers, said the unexpected finding “needs investigation,” recommending that having a psychiatric disorder should “be added to the list of risk factors for Covid-19.”
While there have been studies and reports warning of an impending mental health crisis prompted by widespread change, uncertainty and isolation amid social distancing measures,, the scope of this research really highlights the magnitude of the problem. It is compounded by a growing body of evidence looking at the long-term impacts of a Covid-19 infection on the body, with rashes and “Covid toes” both symptoms of “long Covid,” which can affect the body for months.
Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford and leader of the study, said the findings validate worries that Covid-19 survivors will be at a greater risk of mental health problems. “Services need to be ready to provide care, especially since our results are likely to be underestimates of the actual number of cases,” he said. “We urgently need research to investigate the causes and identify new treatments.”
Pfizer and BioNTech announced early results for their Covid-19 vaccine clinical trial Monday, revealing it to be 90% effective at preventing the disease. Despite Pfizer receiving no money from the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed, officials, including President Trump, daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, have been swift to falsely claim credit for the work.