COVID-19

Covid survivors at greater risk of mental health disorders, study suggests

The link between Covid-19 and mental health was made following a large-scale study, published Tuesday in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, analysing the health records of some 236,000 mostly American patients.
The link between Covid-19 and mental health was made following a large-scale study, published Tuesday in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, analysing the health records of some 236,000 mostly American patients. © Azim Moollan

A third of Covid patients suffered neurological conditions such as depression and anxiety within six months of contracting the coronavirus, a study has shown.

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The findings come as France launches an awareness campaign for psychological disorders, which have more than doubled in the country since the pandemic began.

The link between Covid-19 and mental health was made following a large-scale study, published on Tuesday in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, analysing the health records of some 236,000 mostly American patients.

Thirty-four percent had a follow-up diagnosis of neurological or psychiatric disease, with anxiety (17 percent) and mood disorders (14 percent) the most common.

Of those who experienced a severe form of Covid, and had been admitted to intensive care, 7 percent suffered a stroke within six months, while almost 2 percent were diagnosed with dementia.

“Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after Covid-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections,” said Max Taquet, a psychiatrist at Britain’s Oxford University, who co-led the work.

A separate study last year by the same researchers found that 20 percent of Covid survivors were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months of contracting the coronavirus.

Heightened anxiety 

Global rates of anxiety and depression have soared following a year of successive lockdowns, social distancing and travel bans. 

French authorities have warned of a "third mental health wave" as levels of fear, anxiety, sleep deprivation, anger and isolation continue to rise. Health agency Santé Publique France said those most affected were young people aged between 18 and 24.

In tandem with the French Ministry of Health, the agency on Tuesday launched a campaign to help detect and treat psychological disorders, by encouraging people to seek help and talk about their problems.

“Our objective is to promote the identification of the main symptoms of anxiety (irritability, panic) and depression (sadness, loss of interest, energy), as well as sleep problems (often associated with anxiety and depression) through scenes of everyday life," said Santé Publique France.

"Although the issue of mental health has emerged in recent months due to the health crisis, this subject remains unknown and taboo for many French people.”

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