Well-Being Mental Health

COVID-19 patients at heightened risk of mental health diagnosis following infection, study finds

"I don’t want to say that every single person who gets COVID is going to have this type of problem, but if you start to have concern for yourself or a family member, it’s not unheard of. You should definitely seek care for yourself or others around you,” one researcher said.
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COVID-19 patients were at a 25 percent greater risk of developing a psychiatric disorder in the months after infection than those who experienced other respiratory illnesses, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Oregon State University used data from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) to match 46,610 COVID-19 positive individuals with patients who developed other illnesses to measure how COVID-19 affected mental health outcomes.  

The rates of psychiatric diagnosis were measured over two periods – 21 to 120 days after a COVID diagnosis, and from 120 days to a year after diagnosis. The study was limited to patients with no prior history of mental illness and focused particularly on anxiety and mood disorders. 

Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 had a 3.8 percent rate of developing a psychiatric disorder compared to 3 percent of those with a different respiratory diagnosis, researchers said.  

“There could certainly be people who are struggling with new things like this, and they need that additional support or push to seek some help,” Lauren Chan, a doctoral student in nutrition in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, said in a news release.  

“I don’t want to say that every single person who gets COVID is going to have this type of problem, but if you start to have concern for yourself or a family member, it’s not unheard of. You should definitely seek care for yourself or others around you.” 

Chan added that an increase in mental health diagnoses poses a threat to a health care system already seeing an uptick in need of psychiatric help.  

“We already had struggles in trying to identify a professional to work with, and we’re going to keep having difficulties getting people the care they need,” she said. 


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The latest study adds to a growing body of literature studying the relationship between COVID-19 and mental health, which has had a profound effect on children and young adults.  

A recent study from researchers at the University of California, San Francisco found almost half of young adults in the U.S. experienced mental health symptoms during the middle of the pandemic’s second year.  

Yet, the teams’ findings showed a decline from a year prior. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 63 percent of young adults experienced symptoms of depression or anxiety in June 2020.  


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