1 in 3 Covid patients suffer from neurological or mental disorders within 6 months of diagnosis: Study

The study, which got published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, analyzed health records of 236,000 people, mostly from the US, hit by the virus

                            1 in 3 Covid patients suffer from neurological or mental disorders within 6 months of diagnosis: Study
A medical staff member installs a new oxygen mask for a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit in a hospital in Houston, Texas (Getty Images)

For those who thought the ill-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic were restricted to the public health and economic turmoil, here is more bad news. According to a study published on Tuesday in The Lancet Psychiatry journal, April 6, a third of those affected by the deadly virus were found to be suffering from psychiatric or brain problems within six months of their diagnosis. 

Researchers who came up with the findings analyzed health records of 236,379 Covid patients who are mostly from America and saw 34 percent of those diagnosed having neurological or psychiatric disorders in just six months. The study also showed that about one in eight of the patients were diagnosed with such an illness for the first time. In the US, 30.8 million people have been hit by Covid-19 and the death toll stands at more than 556,000. Worldwide, 132.4 million people have been affected while the death toll is 2.8 million. 


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The research also added that anxiety and depression or mood disorders were the most common diagnoses at 17 and 14 percent, respectively. The scientists said that cases of post-Covid stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were rare but still key. The study said seven percent of those who had been admitted to intensive care with the disease had a stroke within six months while nearly two percent were found to be suffering from dementia. 

COVID-19 patients arrive to the Wakefield Campus of the Montefiore Medical Center on April 06, 2020 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Getty Images)


Covid patients at a bigger risk than those with flu or respiratory infections

The disorders were found to be more common in Covid patients than those who recovered from flu or respiratory infections over the same period. Maxime Taquet, a psychiatrist at Britain’s Oxford University and one of the authors of the study, was quoted as saying by the New York Post: “Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after COVID-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections.”

While the neurological effects are found to be more severe in patients in hospital, they are still common in those who were only treated in an outpatient setting, according to the researchers. "That rate increased progressively as the severity of the Covid-19 illness increased. If we look at patients who were hospitalized that rate increased to 39%," Taquet added.

Taquet though said the study was not able to determine how the coronavirus is linked to psychiatric conditions and added that urgent research is required to know the mechanisms at play. 

The researchers also warned that the pandemic could see a wave of mental and neurological problems. Professor Paul J Harrison from University of Oxford and another co-author, said: “Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial.”

Dr Musa Sami, a clinical associate professor in psychiatry at the University of Nottingham, thought the study to be something important. "This is a robust piece of work in a large cohort demonstrating the association between Covid-19 and psychiatric and neurological complications," he said in a statement, CNN reported. "This is a very important topic as there has been considerable consternation regarding Covid-19 as a 'brain disease.'"