The study was conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System. The results were published in The BMJ.
Disorders include anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, as well as opioid use disorders, illicit drug and alcohol use disorders, and sleep and cognitive disorders.
In a large, comprehensive study of the mental health consequences of people with SARS-CoV-2 infections, the researchers found that such disorders occurred within a year of recovery from the virus in people with severe and mild infections.
Overall, the study found that people with COVID-19 were 60 percent more likely to suffer from mental health problems than those who had not been infected, leading to increased use of prescription drugs to treat such problems and increased risks of substance abuse disorders, including. opioids and non-pioids such as alcohol and illicit drugs.
“We know from past research and personal experience that the tremendous challenges of the pandemic over the past two years have had a profound impact on our collective mental health,” said the senior author. Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, clinical epidemiologist at the University of Washington. “But while we’ve all suffered during the pandemic, people who have had COVID-19 are much worse off mentally. We need to recognize this reality and address these conditions now before they spread to a much wider mental health crisis.”
More than 403 million people worldwide and 77 million in the United States have contracted the virus since the pandemic began.
“From this perspective, COVID-19 infections are likely to have affected more than 14.8 million new cases of mental disorder worldwide and 2.8 million in the United States,” Al-Aly said, referring to the study’s data. “Our calculations do not take into account the incredible number of people, probably millions, who suffer in silence due to mental stigma or lack of resources or support. In addition, we expect the problem to grow as cases seem to increase. Frankly, the scale of this mental health crisis is shocking, frightening and sad.
“Our goal was to provide a comprehensive analysis to help improve our understanding of the long-term risk of mental disorders in COVID-19 patients and to guide their post-infection health care,” added Al-Aly, who treats patients. VA St. Louis Health Care System. “To date, COVID-19 and mental health studies have been limited by up to six months of follow-up data and a narrow range of mental health outcomes — depression and anxiety, for example, but not substance abuse disorders.”
The researchers analyzed unidentified patient data in a database maintained by the U.S. Department of Veterinary Affairs, the country’s largest integrated health care system. The researchers created a controlled data set containing 153,848 adults who were COVID-19 positive between 1 March 2020 and 15 January 2021 and who had survived the disease for the first 30 days. Few subjects in the study were vaccinated before the development of COVID-19 because vaccines were not yet widely available at the time of enrollment.
Statistical modeling was used to compare mental health outcomes in the COVID-19 dataset to two other groups of non-viral people: a control group of more than 5.6 million patients who did not have COVID-19 during the same time period; and a control group of more than 5.8 million people who were patients from March 2018 to January 2019, well before the pandemic began.
The majority of the study participants were older white men. However, due to their large size, more than 1.3 million women, more than 2.1 million black participants, and a large number of people of all ages participated in the study.
Compared with control groups without any infection, people infected with COVID-19 were 35 percent more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders and nearly 40 percent more likely to experience depression or stress-related disorders that may affect behavior and emotions. This coincided with a 55 percent increase in the use of antidepressants and a 65 percent increase in the use of benzodiazepines in the treatment of anxiety.
Similarly, people who recovered from COVID-19 were 41 percent more likely to have sleep disorders and 80 percent more likely to have neurocognitive impairment. The latter refers to forgetfulness, confusion, lack of concentration, and other disorders commonly known together as brain fog.
People who were not infected with COVID-19 were 34 percent more likely to have opioid use and 20 percent more likely to have alcohol or illicit drug use than people without COVID-19 infection. They were also 46 percent more likely to have suicidal thoughts.
“People need to know that if they have had COVID-19 and they are struggling mentally, they are not alone and they should seek help immediately and without shame,” Al-Aly said. “It’s important that we recognize this now, diagnose it and address it before the opioid crisis snowballs and start losing more people to suicide.
“Governments, public and private health insurance providers, and health care systems are better recognizing these problems so we can ensure we provide people with equitable resources for diagnosis and treatment,” he added.
To better understand whether the increased risk of mental disorders is due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the researchers also compared COVID-19 patients with 72,207 flu patients, 11,924 of whom were hospitalized from October 2017 to February 2020. The risk was significantly higher – 27 percent and 45 percent, respectively. with mild to severe COVID-19 infection.
“I hope this dispels the notion that COVID-19 is like the flu,” Al-Aly said. “It’s so much more serious.”
Because hospital stays can cause anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, the researchers compared people who were hospitalized for COVID-19 during the first 30 days of infection with those who were hospitalized for any other reason. Mental disorders were 86 percent more likely to be due to COVID-19 in hospitalized people.
“Our results suggest a specific link between SARS-Co-V-2 and mental disorders,” Al-Aly continued. “We’re not sure why this is, but one of the leading hypotheses is that the virus can enter the brain and disrupt cell and neuronal pathways, leading to mental disorders.
“I am absolutely convinced that urgent attention is needed to identifying and treating mental health disorders that have survived COVID-19,” he said.
Source: The Nordic Page