Research suggests COVID-19 can cause increased risks of developing depression and dementia

Researchers in the UK have revealed that people diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last six months were more likely to develop new neurological conditions including dementia, depression, psychosis and stroke.

In a relatively new study, figures highlighted that a third of people who had previously had a COVID-19 infection went onto to develop a have a relapse of psychological or neurological conditions.

The study was observational meaning researchers cannot definitely say that COVID-19 had caused a diagnosis in people studied, but the study has made for a shocking discovery.

COMMON FINDINGS

Comparing a group of people with COVID-19 with two groups – with flu and other respiratory infections – the researchers at the University of Oxford found COVID resulted in brain conditions.

Using electronic medical records of more than half a million patients in the US, UK scientists looked at the chances of developing one of 14 of the most common psychological and neurological conditions including brain haemorrhage, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, dementia and psychosis.

Anxiety and mood disorders were found to be the most common diagnosis for those who had experienced COVID-19. This diagnosis could be in relation to the stress and experience of being really ill that comes with recovering from the virus.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “Previous studies have highlighted that people with dementia are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. This new study investigates whether this relationship may also hold in the other direction.

“The study doesn’t focus on the cause of this relationship and it is important that researchers get to the bottom of what underlies these findings.”

THE NUMBERS

Figures from the study found that dementia was diagnosed in 0.7 per cent of all COVID patients, but five per cent of those diagnosed didn’t experience delirium.

Mood, anxiety or psychotic disorders affected 24 per cent of all patients but this rose to 25 per cent in those admitted to hospital, 28 per cent in people who were in intensive care and 36 per cent in people who experienced delirium while ill.

“The study confirms our suspicions that a COVID-19 diagnosis is not just related to respiratory symptoms, it is also related to psychiatric and neurological problems,” commented Prof Dame Til Wykes, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London.

“Looking over six months after diagnosis has demonstrated that the ‘after-effects’ can appear much later than expected – something that is no surprise to those suffering from Long COVID.

“Although as expected, the outcomes are more serious in those admitted to hospital, the study does point out that serious effects are also evident in those who had not been admitted to hospital.”

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