Scientists analyzed the health records of 236,379 Covid-19patients, mostly from the United States, and found that 34 percent of them had been diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric illness within six months. The new findings were published in a study in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.
The disorders are said to be significantly more common in Covid-19 patients than in comparison groups of people who recovered from influenza or other respiratory infections in the same time period.
Biological or psychological mechanisms
Experts say the findings are alarming. The widespread diagnosis of brain or psychiatric disorders suggests the pandemic could trigger a wave of mental and neurological problems, scientists said.
Anxiety disorders, at 17 percent, and mood disorders, at 14 percent, were the most common. These diagnoses did not appear to be related to how mild or severe the patient’s Covid-19 infection had been.
Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, who co-led the study, says the individual risks are small. “But the effect on the entire population can be significant.”
Max Taquet, also an Oxford psychiatrist who worked with Harrison, believes that urgent research is needed to identify involved biological or psychological mechanisms “with a view to preventing or treating them.”
‘This is a very important document. It confirms beyond any doubt that Covid-19 affects the brain and mind in equal measure, ”said Simon Wessely, chair of the psychiatry department at King’s College London.
Health experts are increasingly concerned about the evidence that Covid-19 survivors are at higher risk for brain and mental health problems.
The same researchers discovered last year that 20 percent of the Covid-19 survivors were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months.