Research

COVID-19 linked to mental and neurological conditions

One in three COVID -19 survivors received a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis within six months of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, a study has found.

Researchers examined more than 230,000 patient health records, looking at 14 neurological and mental health disorders. Professor Paul Harrison, lead author of the study, from the University of Oxford, said the findings “confirm the high rates of psychiatric diagnoses after COVID -19, and show that serious disorders affecting the nervous system (such as stroke and dementia) occur too. While the latter are much rarer, they are significant, especially in those who had severe Covid-19.” He added “that many of these conditions are chronic.”

The study, published in Lancet Psychiatry, found the estimated incidence of being diagnosed with a neurological or mental health disorder following COVID -19 infection was 34 per cent. For 13 per cent of these people it was their first recorded neurological or psychiatric diagnosis. The most common diagnoses after COVID-19 were anxiety disorders (occurring in 17 per cent of patients), mood disorders (14 per cent), substance misuse disorders (7 per cent), and insomnia (5 per cent). The incidence of neurological outcomes was lower, including 0.6 per cent for brain haemorrhage, 2.1 per cent for ischaemic stroke, and 0.7 per cent for dementia.

Risks of a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis were greatest in, but not limited to, patients who had severe COVID -19. After taking into account underlying health characteristics, such as age, sex, ethnicity, and existing health conditions, there was overall a 44 per cent greater risk of neurological and mental health diagnoses after COVID -19 than after flu, and a 16 per cent greater risk after COVID -19 than with respiratory tract infections. Dr Max Taquet, a co-author of the study, said: “Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after COVID -19 than after flu or other respiratory infections, even when patients are matched for other risk factors.”
Read more: Maxime Taquet, John R Geddes, Masud Husain, Sierra Luciano, Paul J Harrison. 6-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236 379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records, [Full text] Lancet Psychiatry 2021. Published Online 6 April 2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(21)00084-5. BBC News Online. Source: Risks 992

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