The onset of the pandemic last year left us in confined spaces and in isolation. It gave us the time to slow down and introspect. But it was extremely delicate for people with mental health issues. A recent study by the University of Oxford estimated that one in three Covid-19 survivors suffered from a neurological or psychiatric illness within six months of infection.
The data the researchers looked at was collected from TriNetX electronic 2020 health records. The sample size was 2.30,000 Covid-19 patients, most of them from the United States. The results of the study concluded that the risk of developing a mental or neurological problem increased with the severity of COVID-19 infections.
The study published in The Lancet Psychiatry found that 34% (one in three) had been diagnosed with mental health problems within six months of infection. The study was comparative with patients suffering from other respiratory illnesses such as influenza or pneumonia. The result was that 44% were more likely to suffer from mental and neurological problems after Covid-19 than after the flu; 16 percent were more plausible after Covid-19 than with other respiratory infections such as pneumonia.
The diagnosis of patients with Covid-19 found that 17% suffered from an anxiety disorder, 14% from mood disorders, 7% from substance abuse disorders and 5% from insomnia. The likelihood of neurological disorders was found to be lower than that of mental health problems with 0.6% cerebral hemorrhage, 2.1% for ischemic attack and 0.7% for dementia.
Lead author of the study, Paul Harrison, professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, said: “Although the individual risks for most disorders are low, the effect on the general population can be substantial for health and social care systems due to the scale of the problem. pandemic and that many of these conditions are chronic.
“As a result, health systems must be resourced to meet anticipated needs, both in primary and secondary health care services.”
Dr Max Taquet, one of the co-authors of the study, mentioned another serious finding that one in 50 patients (2.1%) suffered from an ischemic attack (where a blood clot affects the brain) within six months and one in 11 (9%) patients with encephalopathy.
The authors of the research believe that the causes of mental and neurological illness are not directly related to the Covid-19 infection but to the subsequent outcome of the psychological stress that accompanies the illness.
The limitation of the study is that the research was performed with data collected from electronic health records, without confirmation of the accuracy of the data and its completeness. Also, there is no measure of the severity of the mental and neurological illness and a record of what happened to them after six months.
Professor Paul Crawford, director of the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham, said there was a need to determine whether the mental health issues detected in the study were the result of a Covid infection or “prolonged confinement and isolation … endured during the pandemic.”.