Patients with mental health disorders are at high risk of dying from COVID-19, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Aix-Marseille in Marseille, France, collected results from 16 articles on the topic to compare mortality risk for patients who did and did not have a mental disorder.
Overall, patients with mental disorders were 1.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
In addition, people with serious conditions — such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — were 2.3 times more likely to die.
The researchers say the findings provide more evidence as to why these patients should be a priority for vaccination and other Covid prevention efforts.
Patients with mental health disorders were 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid than those without diagnosis, new study finds (file image)
Researchers collected results from 16 studies on the topic, which showed that patients with a general mental disorder are about twice as likely to die from Covid as those without a diagnosis
While dementia and other neurological conditions are known to be risk factors for severe Covid, scientists are still learning how the disease interacts with mental health disorders.
Mental disorders range from serious conditions – such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – to more common conditions, such as anxiety and depression.
Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults in the US, or 18 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America of.
It’s common for adults with mental health conditions to also suffer from a physical condition, such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease and substance abuse – many of these physical conditions are also risk factors for Covid.
In addition, patients with mental illness are likely to have reduced access to health care and other socioeconomic barriers.
These barriers can also lead to worse Covid outcomes.
Some previous research has shown that severe mental health disorders are linked to a higher risk of dying from Covid. But there is less established information about other less serious conditions.
A new study published on Tuesday in JAMA Psychiatry helps to fill this information gap.
The study was led by Dr. Guillaume Fond of Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, with collaborators from other French institutions and Seoul, South Korea.
It was a systematic review and meta-analysis, meaning the researchers collected results from a number of articles that all examined the same question.
This review included 16 papers from seven different countries. Of those 16, seven studies were conducted in the US, three in South Korea and two in France.
The 16 studies analyzed anonymous medical records of more than 19,000 patients.
The researchers pooled the results of the separate papers and did statistical analyses, determining the overall differences in Covid mortality between patients who did and did not suffer from mental disorders.
Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were 2.3 times more likely to die from Covid compared to patients without diagnosis
Overall, the researchers found that those patients with mental disorders were 1.75 times more likely to die from Covid, compared to patients without that diagnosis.
For patients with serious conditions – schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – the risk of dying was 2.26 times higher.
In other words, a mental disorder nearly doubles a patient’s risk — and a serious disorder more than doubles it.
Patients with severe conditions may be more at risk because they have a specific immune system profile that is less able to protect against viral infections, the researchers wrote.
The risk of death for patients with mental disorders was much higher when researchers adjusted for other serious Covid factors, such as age and obesity.
As a result, the researchers said factors outside of these conditions likely lead to higher mortality risks for these patients: barriers to health care, a higher risk of drug and alcohol addiction, and other social determinants of health.
Due to a lack of data from the 16 studies in their meta-analysis, the researchers were unable to compare the risk of different mental health disorders.
More research is needed in this area, the researchers said, so doctors can determine whether conditions such as major depression also pose a higher risk.
The researchers also suggested that more research is needed on patients with mental disorders’ need for intensive care and other in-hospital treatments.
Because patients with mental disorders are at higher risk of dying from Covid, the researchers said they should be a priority for Covid prevention efforts.
This includes vaccination campaigns, in-hospital treatments and training for health professionals to reduce the stigma of mental illness in health settings.