New Study Suggests COVID-19 Patients May Be At Greater Risk Of Mental Health Issues

So much remains unknown about the longterm effects of coronavirus, but a new study seems to suggest that more needs to be done to mitigate the impact on mental health of COVID patients specifically. Per the Guardian, almost one in five COVID-19 patients are "diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months of testing positive for the virus." Among those disorders: anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Center found that those with a pre-existing mental health diagnosis are also "65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 than those without," the Guardian writes.

Though the findings – which are described as "unexpected" – suggest a link between psychiatric disorder and COVID-19, it is unclear if the former should be a listed as a risk factor for coronavirus. Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, said more research is needed and other factors that could impact physical health need be taken into consideration. These include socio-economic background, smoking, and drug use. "There was also potential that the general stressful environment of the pandemic is playing a role," he noted.

The study is based on 70 million health records from the U.S. which did not take into account these factors. Instead, researchers compared data with six other conditions over the same period, including influenza, a skin infections, and urinary tract stones among others. The results, published in the Lancet Psychiatry, are likely to be "underestimates of the actual number of cases", reports the BBC.

In the UK, six studies have been given £2 million in funding by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to research the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of at-risk groups. Three of the six projects will focus on children and younger people, two more "will concentrate on people with the most serious mental health problems," while a further study will look into the impact of the pandemic on NHS staff who are currently "facing a mental health crisis," the Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre writes.