COVID survivors have an increased risk of mental health issues

Written by: Dr. Ali Khatau

Posted at: 2022-02-25 12:11:29

Researchers continue to investigate the long-term health effects of COVID-19, or “long COVID.” Using databases from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a new study catalogs a range of mental health issues in the 12 months following a SARS-CoV-2 infection. The study finds that people who have survived COVID-19 are at increased risk of mental health issues in the first year after the illness. The study’s senior investigator is Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of research and development service at the VA Saint Louis Health Care System. In an opinion piece published alongside the research, he says: “The body of evidence on long COVID — from our work and others — suggests the need to reframe our thinking about SARS-CoV-2. It is not only a respiratory virus; it is a systemic virus that may provoke damage and clinical consequences in nearly every organ system — including mental health disorders and neurocognitive decline.” Psychiatrist Dr. Maura Boldrini of Columbia University is the lead author of the article “How COVID-19 Affects the Brain.” She commented on the new study: “This is a large study that sheds light on the prevalence of symptoms that reflect brain involvement in post-COVID patients. These symptoms can be classified by the [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders] into psychiatric categories, but their pathogenesis is unknown.” Dr. Noortje Uphoff is a research fellow at the University of York in the United Kingdom and lead author, she says: “The strengths of the study are that many patients are included, COVID-19 patients are compared to people without evidence of the infection, and data were collected for a year. Whereas many studies measure mental health outcomes such as self-reported symptoms, in this study, medical records of diagnoses and prescriptions were used.”

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