One in three COVID-19 survivors diagnosed with psychological, neurological conditions: study

One in three COVID-19 survivors received diagnoses for psychological or neurological conditions within six months of their coronavirus infection, according to a study released Tuesday.

Medical journal Lancet Psychiatry published research based on TriNetX electronic health records that determined almost 34 percent of people who had COVID-19 were diagnosed with a neurological or psychological condition. More than 12 percent of those who had COVID-19 were diagnosed with these conditions for the first time. 

Among those who were admitted to intensive care units, 46 percent were diagnosed with a neurological or psychological condition in the six-month time frame, with a quarter of those admitted receiving their first diagnosis of that kind. 

The database, which includes information for more than 81 million patients, found more than 236,000 patients diagnosed with COVID-19. In order for their data to be included, the individuals had to be older than 10, diagnosed with COVID-19 on or after Jan. 20, 2020 and still be alive on Dec. 13, 2021. 

Anxiety was the most prevalent diagnosis with 17 percent of those confirmed to have had COVID-19 diagnosed with the disorder, including 19 percent of those admitted to the ICU. Almost 14 percent of those diagnosed with COVID-19 were told they have a mood disorder, including 15 percent of those admitted to the ICU. 

The authors noted that the risks of the neurological and psychological conditions were higher among those who experienced more severe cases of COVID-19, requiring hospitalization or intensive care.

However, COVID-19 survivors who received outpatient care also commonly developed these conditions — 17.5 percent and 13.1 percent were diagnosed with anxiety and mood disorders, respectively. 

Researchers also concluded that those who were diagnosed with COVID-19 were at 44 percent greater risk to develop a neurological and psychiatric condition than those who were diagnosed with the flu. COVID-19 survivors were also at 16 percent increased risk to have the illnesses than those with respiratory tract infections.

The study found COVID-19 did not boost the chances of developing all neurological diseases. Parkinson’s disease and Guillain-Barré syndrome diagnoses were not more common among those who had the coronavirus. 

Research on the long-term physical and mental health impacts of COVID-19 on survivors has picked up throughout the pandemic, as scientists try to determine the future effects on the health care system.

“We need urgent research to better understand how and why does this occur in patients with COVID-19 and how they can be treated and [how to] prevent it,” Max Taquet, a clinical fellow in psychiatry at the University of Oxford and a study co-author, told reporters, according to Axios. 

“But we think that regardless of the explanation, health services need to be prepared for the increased demand that this data is showing,” he added.

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