Beyond brain fog: Understanding Covid and its after-effects on mental health

By: |
April 9, 2021 5:25 AM

Study finds nearly a third of Covid-19 patients developed mental health issues after recovery

Oxford University researchers analysed the data of 2.36 lakh patients in the US, and compared it with the health records of 1.05 lakh influenza patients and 2.36 lakh diagnosed with other respiratory tract infections. (Representative image)Oxford University researchers analysed the data of 2.36 lakh patients in the US, and compared it with the health records of 1.05 lakh influenza patients and 2.36 lakh diagnosed with other respiratory tract infections. (Representative image)

That Covid-19 would exact a big mental health toll had been apparent early on—from isolation of patients to the need for distancing, from the economic hardships faced by millions who lost their jobs to the shutting of schools, the many disruptions to normal life caused by the pandemic surely would have implications for psychiatric health? But, beyond just this, it later emerged in the course of the pandemic last year that the disease caused neuropathologies and psychiatric disorders in many who got it. Now, findings of a study published in The Lancet Psychiatry show the extent of the disease’s bearing on mental health. As per the study, nearly a third of Covid-19 patients who had recovered from the disease later got diagnosed with neurological or pyschiatric disorders.

Oxford University researchers analysed the data of 2.36 lakh patients in the US, and compared it with the health records of 1.05 lakh influenza patients and 2.36 lakh diagnosed with other respiratory tract infections. The study tracked 14 neurological and psychiatric disorders to study such sequelae among Covid-19 patients. The latter, the study found, presented the diagnostic categories more commonly than those who had suffered from influenza and non-Covid respiratory tract illnesses. While 34% of the Covid-19 patients—tracked anywhere between two weeks after infection and six months after infection—showed signs of neurological and/or psychiatric morbidity, nearly a fifth reported anxiety disorders and 14% reported mood disorders. This was worse for severe Covid-19 patients—38·73% for patients who were hospitalised versus 46·42% for those who had to be admitted to ICUs. Viral invasion of the central nervous system, increased tendency towards clot formations and even the neural effects of the immune response to the virus are all suspected as strong reasons for this kind of neuro/pyschiatric pathologies following infection. With Covid-19 increasing mental health risks—more so for those who experienced particularly severe manifestations of the disease—there is a pronounced need for Covid-19 therapy to include mental health interventions also. Otherwise, the effects of the disease will linger long in the society.

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