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Could the pandemic lead to a wave of neuro and mental health issues?


Researchers found that mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are common between Covid-19 survivors. 

One in three Covid-19 survivors is likely to face mental or neurological issues, according to a study published by Lancet Psychiatry on Tuesday.

Scientists conducted a study of more than 235,000 people and found that many were diagnosed with a brain or psychiatric disorder within six months of contracting the virus, suggesting the pandemic could contribute to a wave of mental and neurological problems.

“Researchers who conducted the analysis said it was not clear how the virus was linked to psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression, but that these were the most common diagnoses among the 14 disorders they looked at,” Reuters reported. 

Post-Covid-19 cases of stroke, dementia and other neurological disorders were not as common as anxiety and other recorded issues, the researchers found, but were still significant, especially in those who experienced severe symptoms of the virus.

“Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after Covid-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections,” said Max Taquet, a psychiatrist at Britain’s Oxford University, who co-led the work.

Read also: One step forward, two steps back: Why is Qatar struggling to combat the second wave?

The new study was not able to determine the biological or psychological mechanisms involved, Taquet said. However, it highlights the importance of conducting further research to detect the factors “with a view to preventing or treating them.”

The overspreading disease and its impact on brain and mental health has been one of the main concerns of health experts since the pandemic erupted in March 2020.

As more evidence piles up linking the two, concerns and calls for deeper analysis and research have increased. 

The same researchers conducted a similar study last year and found that 20% of Covid-19 survivors were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder within three months.

The latest findings analysed health records of 236,379 Covid-19 patients, mostly from the United States, and found 34% had been diagnosed with neurological or psychiatric disorders within an extended period of six months.

“The disorders were significantly more common in Covid-19 patients than in comparison groups of people who recovered from flu or other respiratory infections over the same time period, the scientists said, suggesting Covid-19 had a specific impact,” the report said.

The most common disorders were anxiety at 17% and mood disorders, at 14%.

According to the study, the mental issues detected “did not appear to be related to how mild or severe the patient’s Covid-19 infection had been.”

However, rare disorders were detected among patients who had been admitted to intensive care with severe Covid-19.

Some 7% of severe Covid-19 cases had a stroke within six months, and around 2% of hospitalised cases were diagnosed with dementia.

“Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial,” said Paul Harrison, an Oxford psychiatry professor who co-led the work.

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