Coronavirus infection may lead to mental health issues, says study

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India May 19, 2020, 05.17 PM(IST)

Coronavirus patients Photograph:( Reuters )

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The research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, compiled results from short- and long-term studies of people hospitalised due to COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

People taken ill by coronavirus infection may experience mental health issues such as delirium and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while hospitalised and potentially even after they recover, a study has claimed.

The research, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, compiled results from short- and long-term studies of people hospitalised due to COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

The research analysed 65 peer-reviewed studies and seven recent pre-prints that are awaiting peer review, which included data from over 3,500 people who have had one of the three related illnesses. The review only included results from people who were hospitalised, and not people with more mild cases.

The researchers from the University College London (UCL) in the UK found that one in four people hospitalised with COVID-19 may experience delirium during their illness.

The post-recovery effects of COVID-19 are not yet known, so long-term risks such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic fatigue, depression, and anxiety are based on SARS and MERS studies, which may or may not apply to COVID-19 as well.

Most people with COVID-19 will not develop any mental health problems, even among those with severe cases requiring hospitalisation, but given the huge numbers of people getting sick, the global impact on mental health could be considerable, the study added.

Almost one in three people hospitalised with SARS or MERS went on to develop PTSD, at an average follow-up time of almost three years, especially if they had ongoing physical health problems.

Rates of depression and anxiety were also high, at roughly 15 per cent one year or longer after the illness, with a further 15 per cent also experiencing some symptoms of depression and anxiety without a clinical diagnosis.

The study found that over 15 per cent infected also experienced chronic fatigue, mood swings, sleep disorder or impaired concentration and memory.

In hospital, a significant minority of people with coronavirus infections experienced delirium symptoms such as confusion, agitation and altered consciousness.

Almost 28 per cent of people hospitalised for SARS and MERS experienced confusion, and early evidence from the ongoing pandemic suggests that delirium could be similarly common in COVID-19 patients.

They found some preliminary evidence that delirium may have been associated with raised mortality during the MERS outbreak.

Researchers found that worrying a lot about the illness was associated with worse mental health in the long run.

Healthcare workers had worse long-term mental health outcomes than other groups, while making a good physical recovery predicted better long-term mental health.

(with inputs from PTI)