NEW YORK (VINnews) — One in three people who recover from COVID-19 suffer from a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis six months on, according to the largest study so far published on the mental issues which COVID-19 leaves on its survivors.
The research, which was published Wednesday in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, proved that people who had recovered from coronavirus were significantly more likely to develop brain conditions than those suffering from other respiratory tract infections.
Studying the health records of more than 230,000 patients who had recovered from COVID-19, researchers found that 34 per cent were diagnosed with a neurological or psychiatric condition within six months.
The most common conditions were anxiety (17 per cent of patients) and mood disorders (14 per cent). For 13 per cent of patients, the disorders were their first diagnosis of a mental health issue.
Incidence of neurological disorders such as brain haemorrhage (0.6 per cent), stroke (2.1 per cent) and dementia (0.7 per cent) was lower overall than for psychiatric disorders, but the risk for brain disorders was generally higher in patients who had severe COVID-19.
The authors also examined comparative data from more than 100,000 patients diagnosed with influenza and more than 236,000 diagnosed with other respiratory tract infections.
They found there was overall a 44 per cent greater risk of neurological and mental health diagnoses after COVID-19 than after a flu, and a 16 per cent higher risk than with respiratory tract infections.
Paul Harrison, lead author from the University of Oxford, said that while the individual risk of neurological and psychiatric orders from COVID-19 was small, the overall effect across the global population could prove to be “substantial”, since “many of the conditions are chronic” and could tax health care systems in the future.
The study demonstrated that 46 per cent of patients who needed intensive care were diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric conditions within six months of recovery.
2.7 per cent of those requiring intensive care suffered a subsequent brain haemorrhage, compared to 0.3 per cent of people who were not hospitalised.
And nearly 7 per cent of those needing intensive care suffered a stroke, compared with 1.3 per cent of patients who did not require such care.
“It is clear from this study that the impact COVID-19 is having on individuals mental health can be severe,” said Lea Milligan, CEO of the British-based MQ Mental Health research group.
“This is contributing to the already rising levels of mental illness and requires further, urgent research.”