One in five people who contract COVID-19 are diagnosed with mental illness within the three months following their positive test for the virus, a new study indicates. Among the mental illnesses being diagnosed are anxiety, depression, insomnia, and dementia.
“People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings … show this to be likely,” Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at Oxford University in the United Kingdom, told Reuters.
Harrison also noted that the results garnered in the study “are likely to be underestimates,” implying that the likelihood of a person suffering a mental illness after undergoing a battle with COVID-19 may be even higher than the study projects.
The study analyzed the health records of 69 million people in the United States, including the records of 62,354 people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 between January 20, 2020 and August 1, 2020. The study results were published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.
COVID and Mental Illness
Not only did the study find that 20 percent of people diagnosed with COVID-19 went on to be diagnosed with a mental illness for the first time in their lives, the results also suggest that those who had been diagnosed with mental illnesses in the three years prior to the study time period contracted COVID-19 at higher rates than those who had not been diagnosed with mental illnesses. Specifically, the study authors say the results show “odds of being diagnosed with COVID-19 were higher for patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia.”
The study also compared the rate of COVID-19 survivors developing a mental illness to the rates of people experiencing mental illness following other “health events” such as influenza, another respiratory tract infection, or skin infection. The results found that the rate of a recovered COVID-19 patient going on to be diagnosed with a mental illness was “significantly higher” than the rates among those with a different condition.
While the study analyzed records of patients in the United States, study authors believe the findings will be similar for people in other countries.
Harrison says health services need to prepare for the ongoing care COVID-19 patients will likely require. He also encouraged doctors and scientists to investigate the causes of the rise in mental illnesses and potential treatments.
As clergy care for those in their communities, these findings will likely be of interest to them. The number of cases in the United States continues to rise at an alarming rate, which means the number of clergy with parishioners who contract COVID-19 or who are caring for a loved one with COVID-19 are likely rising as well.