Severe COVID-19 could be linked to long-term mental health problems 

A recent study published in The Lancet Public Health journal has found that severe COVID-19 could be linked to long-term mental health problems, like anxiety or depression. 

The study analyzed the data of nearly 250,000 people in Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the UK to see how serious cases of the virus affected mental wellbeing. 

They looked at the prevalence of various symptoms of depression, anxiety, poor sleep quality, and COVID-19 related distress in those with a diagnosis, and those without one. 

The results show that being diagnosed with COVID-19 made individuals more likely to suffer from mental health problems for up to 16 months after the initial diagnosis. 

In addition to this, the researchers found that patients who were bedridden for at least seven days had higher rates of depression and anxiety than those that weren’t bedridden. 

Even though most mental health symptoms in COVID-19 patients had subsided within two months, patients who were stuck in bed for a week were up to 50-60% more likely to still be experiencing depression and anxiety up to 16 months after being infected. 

Study author Unnur Anna Valdimarsdóttir, professor of the University of Iceland, said: “It suggests that mental health effects aren’t equal for all COVID-19 patients and that time spent bedridden is a key factor in determining the severity of the impacts on mental health.”

Co-author Ingibjörg Magnúsdóttir, a researcher at the University of Iceland, added that “the higher occurrence of depression and anxiety among patients with COVID-19 who spent seven days or longer bedridden could be due to a combination of worrying about long-term health effects as well as the persistence of physical long COVID symptoms well beyond the illness that limit social contact and may result in a sense of helplessness”. 

She continued that “equally, inflammatory responses among patients with a severe diagnosis may contribute to more persistent mental health symptoms. In contrast, the fact that individuals with a mild COVID-19 infection can return to normal lives sooner and only experience a benign infection likely contributes to the lower risk of negative mental health effects we observed.”

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