The study was based on participants self-reporting of COVID-19 due to the limited availability of tests at the beginning of the pandemic. However, the level of reported infections is similar to two other UK studies conducted at the same time.
They also found that having a mental health problem before the pandemic was associated with an increased likelihood of contracting COVID-19. Possible reasons for this may include lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical health vulnerabilities associated with poor mental health, and less compliance with government COVID-19 restrictions.
Previous studies in the UK have reported an increase in symptoms of anxiety and depression after patients likely contracted COVID-19, but only about six months later. This research suggests that the virus may have a longer-term effect on mental health than previously thought.
The researchers urge medical professionals to take the findings into account when treating patients who have had COVID-19. Professor O’Connor said: “The findings highlight the importance of GPs and other health professionals being alert to these long-term symptoms and putting in place treatments and support for mental and physical health in patients who may have acquired a COVID-19 infection.”
The researchers emphasized that prolonged COVID may also be a factor in the findings, as its long-term symptoms, such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, brain fog, loss of taste and smell, and shortness of breath, can contribute to anxiety, depression, and poor well-being.
They concluded that further research is needed to identify the causes of long-term mental health effects of COVID-19.
A spokesperson for one of the funders, Mindstep Foundation, said: “Mindstep Foundation is delighted to fund this research, which is an important first step towards evidence of the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health. I hope this will help improve care and support for those affected going forward.”
Source: The Nordic Page