One in three people who have recovered from coronavirus have also received a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis within six months of infection, a study from Oxford University has found.
The most common diagnoses after Covid-19 were anxiety disorders, which occurred in 17 per cent of patients, mood disorders (14 per cent) and substance misuse disorders (7 per cent).
However, the incidence of neurological outcomes was lower, including 0.6 per cent for brain haemorrhage, 2.1 per cent for ischaemic stroke, and 0.7 per cent for dementia.
Risks of either outcomes were greatest in patients who had severe Covid-19. A neurological or psychiatric diagnosis occurred in 38 per cent of those who had been admitted to hospital and 46 per cent of those in intensive care.
The study analysed data from health records of 236,379 Covid-19 patients in the US. This group was compared with 105,579 patients diagnosed with influenza and 236,038 patients diagnosed with any respiratory tract infection.
Dr Max Taquet, a co-author of the study, from the University of Oxford, said: “Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after Covid-19 than after 'flu or other respiratory infections, even when patients are matched for other risk factors.
"We now need to see what happens beyond six months. The study cannot reveal the mechanisms involved, but does point to the need for urgent research to identify these, with a view to preventing or treating them.”
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: "This study highlights the urgency of accelerating the Government's programme to improve mental health services, to meet what could be a significant increase in the number of people needing support and treatment in the coming months.
"The findings suggest large numbers of people with a previous Covid infection, including those who had not been hospitalised, may develop depression or other mood or anxiety disorders as a consequence. Services are already under considerable strain and without emergency investment we fear people could be left with no-one to talk to and nowhere to turn."
The authors say there were limitations to the study because it only captures people who have presented for health care, so those with mild or no symptoms will not have been included.
The study was published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(21)00084-5/fulltext
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