April 6. 2021
LONDON (Reuters) – One in three COVID-19 survivors in a study of more than 230,000 mostly American patients were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months, suggesting the pandemic could lead to a wave of mental and neurological problems, scientists said on Tuesday.
Researchers who conducted the analysis said it was not clear how the virus was linked to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that these were the most common diagnoses among the 14 disorders they looked at.
Post-COVID cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rarer, the researchers said, but were still significant, especially in those who had severe COVID-19.
“Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial,” said Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford University who co-led the work.
Max Taquet, also an Oxford psychiatrist who worked with Harrison, noted that the study was not able to examine the biological or psychological mechanisms involved, but said urgent research is needed to identify these “with a view to preventing or treating them”.
Health experts are increasingly concerned by evidence of higher risks of brain and mental health disorders among COVID-19 survivors. A previous study by the same researchers found last year that 20% of COVID-19 survivors were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months.