The relation between COVID-19 and mental health

Researchers from University of Oxford have studied the links between COVID-19 and psychiatric disorders. They looked at 62,354 US patients diagnosed with COVID-19 between January and August, 2020. All of them had survived the virus infection.

Within 90 days after being tested positive for the virus, nearly 1 in 5 corona patients had reported psychiatric problems. Almost 6% of all patients had their first psychiatric diagnosis. This was nearly twice as high as for 6 other health conditions examined (among which bone fractures, other respiratory tract infections, gallstones). Most common mental illnesses were anxiety disorders, insomnia and dementia.

These results, inasmuch as they are alarming, were not unexpected. Much to their own surprise, however, the authors, also found a relation in the opposite direction. A pre-existing mental health condition increased the incidence of COVID-19 infection by 65%. Although the researchers hypothesized tentative explanations (e.g. medication or the role of pro-inflammatory cytokines in psychiatric disease), they warned for overinterpretation of these preliminary findings.

Taquet, M., Luciano S., Geddes, J.R., Harrison, P.J., Bidirectional associations between COVID-19 and psychiatric disorder: retrospective cohort studies of 62 354 COVID-19 cases in the USA, Lancet Psychiatry, November 9, 2020,