One In Five Coronavirus Patients Developed First-Time Mental Health Problem Within Months Of Testing Positive

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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Twenty percent of people infected with the coronavirus were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within 90 days after testing positive, a study showed, according to Reuters.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, looked at the electronic health records of 69 million people in the U.S. Of the more than 62,000 cases of coronavirus, 1 in 5 were found to have a first time diagnosis of a mental health problem three months after recovering, according to Reuters.

The likelihood of having a first time anxiety, depression or insomnia diagnosis was roughly double than that of other groups of patients in the same period, the study found.

The three health issues were most common among recovered patients who developed mental health problems. Researchers also found significantly higher risks of dementia.

“People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings … show this to be likely,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Britain’s Oxford University, said, according to Reuters.

People with pre-existing mental illness were also 65% more likely to be diagnosed with coronavirus, the study found, according to Reuters.

The intersection of coronavirus and mental health has been previously studied, especially with consideration of how environmental stress from lockdowns and other pandemic-related adjustments to daily life have affected people. 

A separate editorial published Oct. 8 in The Lancet says that 33-42% of patients admitted to hospitals in past health crises like Middle East respiratory syndrome had depressed mood, anxiety and insomnia. 

 “Frontline workers are experiencing increased workload and trauma, making them susceptible to stress, burnout, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” the author says with regard to the coronavirus pandemic.

Michael Bloomfield, a consultant psychiatrist at University College London, told Reuters that the prevalence of mental health issues in the most recent study “is likely due to a combination of the psychological stressors associated with this particular pandemic and the physical effects of the illness.”

Pfizer’s announcement on Monday that its vaccine was 90% effective at preventing coronavirus infection during clinical trials was a major development in the global fight against the pandemic. (RELATED: Fauci: Pfizer Vaccine Could Be Distributed ‘By The End Of The Year’)

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr.Fauci, who serves as the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said that Pfizer will begin in the next 10 days applying for emergency use authorization and ultimate approval of the vaccine.

He said that if the process goes smoothly, as he expects, “we may have doses that we’re able to give to people by the end of November, beginning of December.”