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‘Covid patients at greater risk of mental disorders’, says Oxford study

Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: Amid an escalating spike in coronavirus cases worldwide, an Oxford University study has warned that Covid-19 patients are at a 44 percent higher risk of neurological and mental health diagnoses than after influenza, and a 16 percent greater risk than with other respiratory tract infections.

The largest study of its kind by the University of Oxford revealed on Wednesday that the estimated incidence of being diagnosed with a neurological or any mental health issue following Covid-19 infection was 34 percent. For 13 percent of these people, it was their first recorded neurological or psychiatric diagnosis, according to media reports.

The most common diagnoses after Covid-19 were anxiety disorders (17 percent of patients), mood disorders (14 percent), substance misuse disorders (7 percent), and insomnia (5 percent). The incidence of neurological outcomes was lower, including 0.6 per cent for a brain haemorrhage, 2.1 per cent for ischaemic stroke, and 0.7 per cent for dementia, the real-world data from a large number of patients indicated.

The available data confirmed the high rates of psychiatric diagnoses after Covid-19, and show that serious disorders affecting the nervous system (stroke, and dementia) occur too, said Professor Paul Harrison, lead author of the study, Department of Psychiatry at the University.

Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the entire population may be substantial for health and social care systems due to the scale of the pandemic and the that many of these conditions are chronic.

This latest study analyzed data from the electronic health records of 236,379 Covid-19 patients from the US-based TriNetX network, which includes more than 81 million people, the reports said.

This group was compared with 105,579 patients diagnosed with influenza and 236,038 patients diagnosed with any respiratory tract infection (including influenza).

“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, Dr. Max Taquet, a co-author of the study, said.

Their peer-reviewed paper, published in ‘Lancet Psychiatry’, was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre.