Study finds 20 percent of COVID-19 patients receive a psychiatric diagnosis

Researchers at the University of Oxford in the Department of Psychiatry and the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Center published a study that reports the first large-scale evidence indicating COVID-19 survivors are at an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. The study used TriNetX electronic health records of 69 million people in the US, including 62,000 cases of COVID-19. Within 90 days following a positive test for COVID-19, one in five survivors was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or insomnia for the first time.

It’s about twice as likely for a COVID survivor to get one of those psychiatric diagnoses as it is for other types of patients over the same term. COVID-19 is also associated with more new psychiatric diagnoses in people who already had a history of psychiatric problems. Study lead Professor Paul Harrison says that people worried COVID-19 survivors would be at greater risk of mental health problems.

The results of the study Harrison and his team conducted show developing mental health problems is likely inside the patient group. Harrison urges research to investigate the causes and to identify new treatments. His team also found that people with pre-existing psychiatric diagnoses were 65 percent more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those without psychiatric conditions.

That percentage held true even when known risk factors for COVID-19 were taken into account. Dr. Max Taquet, NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow, conducted the analysis and noted that the finding was unexpected and needed to be investigated. He says that having a psychiatric disorder should be added to the list of risk factors for COVID-19.

Harrison points out that services need to be ready to provide care for COVID-19 survivors with mental health problems. He says the results are likely to underestimate the actual number of cases.

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