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One in three COVID-19 survivors diagnosed with neurological or mental health conditions, study finds

A 3rd of COVID-19 survivors undergo from long-term brain or psychiatric problems, scientists reported Tuesday. 

Researchers studied greater than 236,000 sufferers, principally in the U.S., discovering that 34% of survivors had been diagnosed with a neurological or psychological situation inside six months of an infection. Researchers name it the biggest study so far on the connection between coronavirus and brain health. 

Researchers checked out 14 neurological and mental health problems in complete. According to the observational study, published Tuesday in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, anxiousness was the commonest analysis, affecting 17% of survivors. 

The neurological results had been extra extreme amongst sufferers who had been hospitalized — however remained frequent even in much less extreme instances. Mood problems had been the second-most frequent analysis, at 14%, adopted by substance misuse problems at 7% and insomnia at 5%. 

Neurological diagnoses, like stroke and dementia, had been rarer, however not unusual. Among sufferers admitted to intensive care with extreme COVID-19, 7% had a stroke inside six months, and almost 2% had been diagnosed with dementia.

For 13% of sufferers, it was their first recorded neurological or psychiatric analysis.

“These are real-world data from a large number of patients. They confirm the high rates of psychiatric diagnoses after COVID-19 and show that serious disorders affecting the nervous system (such as stroke and dementia) occur too,” lead creator Paul Harrison mentioned in a statement Wednesday. “While the latter are much rarer, they are significant, especially in those who had severe COVID-19.” 

Researchers in contrast the digital health information of COVID-19 sufferers to those that skilled different respiratory infections throughout the identical time interval. Taking under consideration underlying health traits, they discovered that these with coronavirus had a 44% larger likelihood of neurological or psychiatric diagnoses in comparison with sufferers recovering from influenza, and a 16% larger threat than these with different respiratory tract infections. 

Previous analysis by the identical scientists final year discovered that 20% of coronavirus survivors had been diagnosed with a psychiatric dysfunction inside simply three months. 

“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,” mentioned co-author Max Taquet. “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.”

Researchers are involved that long-term brain or psychiatric problems might put even additional pressure on a health care system already pushed to its limits. 

“Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial for health and social care systems due to the scale of the pandemic and that many of these conditions are chronic,” Harrison mentioned. “As a result, health care systems need to be resourced to deal with the anticipated need, both within primary and secondary care services.”

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Researchers famous a number of setbacks to the study, together with that sufferers with medical information of their signs are possible these to have been extra severely affected by COVID-19. Additionally, the severity of the brain problems in these sufferers is just not recognized. 

Because the study was observational, researchers might solely notice associations, not causality. However, specialists not concerned in the study stay involved by the findings. 

“This is a very important paper. It confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that COVID-19 affects both brain and mind in equal measure,” Simon Wessely, chair of psychiatry at King’s College London, advised Reuters

“The impact COVID-19 is having on individuals’ mental health can be severe,” mentioned Lea Milligan, chief govt of the MQ Mental Health analysis charity. “This is contributing to the already rising levels of mental illness and requires further, urgent research.”