A new study out of Oregon State University looked at the risk of psychiatric diagnoses in the months after a COVID-19 infection.
“Previous work during earlier parts of the pandemic reported a high risk of new mental health conditions occurring following COVID infection,” study author Lauren Chan told us. “This study was intended to determine if that risk still exists for patients in the US including patient data until Fall of 2021.”
Guiding off of prior findings, researchers theorized they may see an increased risk for mental health conditions following acute COVID infection.
“As almost all individuals in the US have either been infected with COVID or know someone who has, we are all wondering about what the potential long term effects may be,” Chan told us. “Mental health is also an area of interest for our research group, who works on a variety of COVID related projects.”
So far, there have been 526 million cases of COVID-19 during the current pandemic worldwide and 6.28 million deaths. The coronavirus disease is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. People who become ill with the virus may experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover without treatment, however, others may become seriously ill and require hospitalization.
A Statistics Canada survey found that one in four Canadians screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder in the spring of 2021 which was increase from one in five Canadians over the age of 18 in the fall of 2020.
The investigation compared individuals with COVID to those with other respiratory tract infections (RTI) to assess differences in the risk for new onset mental health conditions. Using a large electronic health record dataset called the National COVID Cohort Collaborative, researchers looked at risk for new mental health conditions in the post-acute period, with the early period being 21-120 days after COVID or RTI onset and the late period being 121-365 days after infection.
“Of particular interest was an approximately 25% increased risk for a new onset psychiatric diagnosis or anxiety disorder during the early post acute phase (21-120 days after infection),” Chan told us. “However, no increased risk was seen during the late post acute phase, nor for mood disorders during either the early or late phase of the study period.”
As previous investigations have displayed an increased risk for mental health conditions in the post acute COVID period, the research team was not surprised to see an increased risk displayed in our study.
“However, it was a positive surprise that the rates of increased risk for new onset mental health conditions within our investigation was lower than what was reported in prior studies,” Chan told us. “These findings suggest the need to continue researching mental health in the post acute COVID period.”
Prospective study designs and investigations that collect data about the particular mental health challenges patients may be facing could offer interesting insight into why there might be an association between COVID and mental health.
“Beyond future research,” Chan told us, “individuals should look out for themselves and others following COVID infection and seek care for any new signs of a mental health condition.”
Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog: www.patriciatomasiblog.wordpress.com