COVID-19 infection doubles the risk of psychiatric diagnoses and triples the risk of sleeping problems

COVID-19 infection leads to an increased risk of fatigue, sleep problems and psychiatric problems long after patients are diagnosed with their first illness, a new study finds.

Researchers from the University of Manchester used a UK database of anonymous medical records from around 12 million patients, tracking those who had contracted Covid for up to 10 months after their diagnosis.

Patients who contracted Covid were twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety or another serious condition after encountering the disease, compared to non-Covid patients.

They were also twice as likely to be prescribed psychiatric medications and three times as likely to report sleep problems.

In addition, the study found that patients with negative Covid tests were also more likely to develop the conditions, suggesting that additional factors outside of the biology of the coronavirus may play a role in this pattern.

Still, the study provides new evidence for the long-term effects of Covid on patients’ sleep and mental health.

Covid infection can lead to long-term fatigue, sleep problems and psychiatric conditions like anxiety and depression, new study finds (file image)

Patients who tested positive for Covid were more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, psychosis and other conditions (left), as well as more likely to receive regular antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs (right)

Patients who tested positive for Covid were more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, psychosis and other conditions (left), as well as more likely to receive regular antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs (right)

Fatigue, difficulty sleeping and brain fog are all common symptoms of Lung Covid, a condition in which patients continue to experience Covid symptoms for weeks or months after their initial infection.

Brain fog – a collective term for problems with concentration and memory – is especially common.

One international investigation of Lung Covid patients found that about nine in 10 patients reported neurological or psychiatric symptoms months after their Covid diagnosis.

Some research has also suggested that Covid infection may be linked to anxiety, depression or mental health issues, through connections between the immune system and brain inflammation.

A new study provides additional evidence for the risk that a Covid diagnosis can pose to patients’ long-term mental health.

Researchers from the University of Manchester in the UK examined diagnoses of anxiety, depression, self-harm and psychosis in Covid patients.

The researchers also examined links between Covid, fatigue and sleep problems. Their study was published on Tuesday in JAMA Network Open.

In their analysis, the researchers used anonymous medical records from primary care in the UK, which contain information on diagnoses, symptoms and treatments.

For their study, the Manchester researchers focused on patients over the age of 16 who entered a primary care facility between February and December 2020.

This included a total of about 12 million patients – of whom 230,000 (or about two percent) had a positive Covid test result during that time.

To compare clinical outcomes for Covid and non-Covid patients, the researchers matched groups of patients based on medical and demographic patterns.

Patients who tested positive for Covid were much more likely to receive a psychiatric diagnosis of depression, anxiety or another condition in the coming months, the researchers found.

A positive Covid test led to a 1.8 times higher chance of being diagnosed and a 2.2 times higher chance of being prescribed psychiatric medication – compared to patients who did not have Covid.

Covid patients were 7.6 times more likely to receive antipsychotics and 4.9 times more likely to receive sleep disorder drugs, researchers found (file image)

Covid patients were 7.6 times more likely to receive antipsychotics and 4.9 times more likely to receive sleep disorder drugs, researchers found (file image)

Still, the absolute risks of such a diagnosis were low.

Only 1.4 percent of Covid patients had a psychiatric diagnosis six months after their positive test, compared with 0.9 percent of patients with a negative test result.

“For nearly all the considered outcomes, positive SARS-CoV-2 test results were associated with increased risk,” the researchers wrote.

Patients who tested positive received 7.6 times more antipsychotics and 4.9 times more drugs to treat sleep disorders than those who did not have Covid.

Covid patients were also six times more likely to report fatigue and 3.2 times more likely to report sleep problems.

The risks were higher for Covid patients, the researchers found. In patients over 80 years of age, the risk of a psychiatric diagnosis after Covid was 4.2 times higher than in non-Covid patients.

In addition, Covid patients with a history of mental illness were likely prescribed new antidepressants after their Covid case.

The study supports findings from other research, indicating that Covid may disrupt patients’ sleep and mental health in the long term.

Still, the study also found that patients who tested negative for Covid were also likely to have an increased risk of a psychiatric diagnosis and sleep problems.

As a result, the researchers suggest that some factors unrelated to the biology of the coronavirus may be related to an increase in psychiatric cases in both Covid and non-Covid patients.

These other factors, the researchers said, include occupation and “health anxiety.”

Health care workers and other essential workers are more likely to get Covid-tested – as well as more likely to face extreme pressures at work during the pandemic, which can contribute to mental health problems.

“The negative exposure control analysis showed that these factors should not be ignored,” the researchers wrote, “and while this does not rule out a direct association of SARS-CoV-2 infection with subsequent psychiatric morbidity, it raises considerable doubts.”

This study is also limited because the researchers used previous medical records rather than contacting patients directly, and used positive PCR tests to define a Covid case — excluding people who had Covid but didn’t get a test. .

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