Covid-19 linked with higher risk of psychiatric disorders, study suggests

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Having coronavirus may be linked to an increase in a person’s risk of psychiatric disorders, and having a psychiatric disorder is linked to an increased chance of contracting Covid-19, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the University of Oxford, department of psychiatry and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, used the TriNetX electronic health records of 69 million people in the US, including more than 62,000 cases of Covid-19.

The findings indicate that in the period between 14 and 90 days after Covid-19 diagnosis,  18.1% people received a psychiatric diagnosis within 90 days of contracting the virus,  including 5.8% who were a first diagnosis.

According to the study published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, in the three months after testing positive for the virus, one in five survivors were found to receive a diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia, for the first time.

A diagnosis of dementia may also be more common, the researchers suggest.

Paul Harrison, professor of psychiatry, University of Oxford, theme lead – NIHR Oxford Health BRC, who led the study, said: “People have been worried that Covid-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings in a large and detailed study show this to be likely.

“Services need to be ready to provide care, especially since our results are likely to be underestimates of the actual number of cases.

“We urgently need research to investigate the causes and identify new treatments.’

The researchers found that people with a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 than those without, even when the known risk factors for Covid-19 were taken into account.

Dr Max Taquet, NIHR academic clinical fellow, who conducted the analyses, remarked: “This finding was unexpected and needs investigation.

“In the meantime, having a psychiatric disorder should be added to the list of risk factors for Covid-19.”

The researchers caution that their findings relate to a study in the US, and it cannot be assumed that the outcomes will be observed elsewhere.

They add that the study cannot speak to the underlying mechanisms, and further investigation into this is urgently needed.

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