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COVID-19 Linked With Subsequent Mental and Neurological Conditions

While patients who developed a severe case of COVID-19 were at the highest risk, it was not limited to them.

A recent study, which was the largest to date, conducted by investigators from the University of Oxford has found that 1 in 3 survivors of COVID-19 had received a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis within 6 months of their infection.

Findings from the study were published in the journal The Lancet.

"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,” Paul Harrison, lead author on the study said. “As a result, health care systems need to be resourced to deal with the anticipated need, both within primary and secondary care services."

For the study, investigators analyzed health record data of 236,379 COVID-19 patients from a United States based network called TriNetX. The database includes records for more than 81 million people.

They then compared this data with 105,579 patients who were diagnosed with influenza and 236,038 patients who were diagnosed with any respiratory tract infection.

Findings from the study showed that the estimated incidence of a neurological or mental health disorderdiagnoses was 34%, with it being the first recorded diagnosis for 13% of the patients. The most common were anxiety (17%), mood disorders (7%) and insomnia (5%). The incidence of neurological outcomes was lower, including brain hemorrhage (0.6%), ischemic stroke (2.1%), and dementia (0.7%).

Patients who developed a severe case of COVID-19 had the greatest risk of a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis.

"Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after COVID-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections, even when patients are matched for other risk factors,” Max Taquet, co-author on the study said. “We now need to see what happens beyond six months. 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."