34% of Covid-19 Patients Suffer from Neurological or Mental Health Disorders, Study Finds

Neurological and mental disorders caused by the Covid-19 virus by: Nik Shuliahin, Unsplash
Neurological and mental disorders caused by the Covid-19 virus by: Nik Shuliahin, Unsplash

34% of people affected by the Covid-19 virus reported symptoms of neurological or psychiatric disorder within six months of infection stated an observational study of over 230,000 patient health records. 

The findings were published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal on Tuesday. Researchers relied on data from the TriNetX network, which includes 81 million people; analyzing electronic health records of 236,379 corona-virus patients from the United States. The data came from three groups: 200,000 COVID patients,  236,083 patients diagnosed with respiratory tract infection, and 105,579 patients diagnosed with influenza.

According to the same study led by the University of Oxford, one third Covid-19 patients received a diagnosis of a neurological or mental health disorder due to the virus. Of the diagnosed patients, 13% suffered neurological or psychiatric disorders for the first time in their life. 

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Anxiety disorders had hit 17% of patients, mood disorders 14%, substance misuse disorders 7% and insomnia 7%. Thankfully, severe collateral damage was low only with 2.1% accounting for ischemic stroke; 0.7% for dementia, and finally 0.6% for brain hemorrhage.

Researchers took into consideration age, sex, ethnicity, and health conditions. The research found a 44% greater risk of suffering neurological and mental health problems after Covid-19 compared to flu. And a 16% higher risk than with respiratory tract infections.

The Covid-19 pandemic first appeared in China in December 2019. Since then, more than 132 million people caught the virus. Meanwhile, 2.8 million lost their lives to Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The world should cope with the Covid-19 related neurological disorders

“The world should prepare to deal with the high numbers of neurological and psychiatric disorders caused by the virus based on the findings,” stated Professor Paul Harrison. Harrison is the lead author of the study from the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University

 “These are real-world data from a large number of patients. They confirm the high rates of psychiatric diagnoses after Covid-19 and show serious disorders affecting the nervous system (such as stroke and dementia) occur too. While the latter are much rarer, they are significant, especially in those who had severe Covid-19,” he noted.

“Although the individual risks for most disorders are small. The effect across the whole population may be substantial for health and social care systems. This is due to the scale of the pandemic and 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.”

Dr. Max Taquet, co-author of the study from Oxford University, stated to understand “what happens beyond six months” continued research is imperative.

“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.”

“A previous observational study by the same research group reported Covid-19 survivors are at increased risk of mood and anxiety disorders in the first three months after infection. However, until now, there have been no large-scale data examining the risks of neurological as well as psychiatric diagnoses in the six months after Covid-19 infection,” the department said.