A study has found that one in three Covid-19 survivors receive a following neurological or psychiatric diagnosis.
Concerningly for policymakers and healthcare services, the largest study of its kind has concluded that patients who develop severe symptoms from Covid-19 are at risk of developing anxiety and mood disorders as well as stroke and dementia.
Analysis of 230,000 patients health records, six months after infection, estimates that 34% of Covid-19 survivors develop a neurological or psychiatric disorder, 17% are diagnosed with anxiety, 14% with a mood disorder, 5% with insomnia, 7% had a stroke, and 2% with a later diagnosis of dementia.
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While instances of psychiatric symptoms were found to correlate with the severity of Covid-19 symptoms and subsequent hospitalisation, the data also suggested that mental ill-health increased even if the patient had not required hospital care.
Dr Max Taquet, a co-author of the study, University of Oxford, commented that the findings indicate that psychiatric disorders were more common after Covid-19 infection when compared to the control group, adding that:
“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."
Primary and secondary services may feel the impact of Covid-19 for many more years to come
The authors of the study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, wrote that their findings should aid in allocating resources to address the longer-lasting mental health symptoms that are anticipated to arise due to Covid-19.
Professor Paul Harrison, lead author of the study, University of Oxford, said: "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. 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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£500m of extra funding for mental health services
The development of mental health conditions post-serious-viral-infection has been previously documented after the 2002-03 SARS outbreak. A 2009 study discovered that SARS was a mental health catastrophe that led to an enduring hangover of PTSD diagnoses and depressive disorders.
Consequentially, since the outbreak of Covid-19, concerns have been raised over the increased risk of neurological disorders post-infection. Previous studies have focused on the initial aftermath of infection, with research revealing that 20% of patients who required hospitalisation were later diagnosed with PTSD due to their experience.
Anticipating long-term increased demand for mental health support post-pandemic, the chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £500m package for mental health services at last November's Spending Review. The earmarked funds are part of a recovery plan that aims to respond to the pandemic's impact on the mental health of the public, specifically targeting those with severe mental illnesses.