Study finds depression and anxiety may persist in bedridden Covid patients, but mild infections reduce risk

People who are bedridden for a week or more with COVID-19 remain at increased risk of developing anxiety and depression more than a year later, a new study shows.

But those with milder infections are actually less likely to have mental health problems than the general population.

“The good news is that the patient group as a whole is not at higher risk of developing long-term (mental health) symptoms,” said Onur Anna Valdemarsdottir, a psychiatric epidemiologist at the University of Iceland who helped direct the research.

Mild infections can improve mental health.

“There may be relief associated with the infection,” she said.

She said nearly 80% of people with COVID-19 are no longer at risk of developing persistent mental health symptoms.

A large area of ​​uncertainty: With COVID-19 cases surging in Europe, could the United States see the same?

Stephanie Collier, a specialist in geriatric psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts, said the study was the first to look at large numbers of people who were infected but not sick enough to get to the hospital and track them. for a long period.

Doctors assumed that sicker patients were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, she said, but the risk was unclear for those who did not need hospital care.

It is also good news for people who are not seriously ill.

“This study helps to say that not every mild infection will end in residual symptoms,” she said.

An Indonesian healthcare worker prepares a Bio Pharma COVID-19 vaccine on August 6, 2021 in Surabaya, Indonesia.

The cause of long-term depression or anxiety after injury remains unclear. Collier, who now asks all of his patients if they have COVID-19, said the mental health challenge caused by the infection could possibly be approached differently than the one that emerged with no clear start date.

She said most of her patients who complain of new depression or anxiety also have other symptoms of so-called prolonged COVID, including extreme fatigue or an inability to concentrate long enough to read a book or carry on. a job or hobby.

“Time will tell,” she said, “whether the depression that begins after COVID-19 infection is different from other forms of depression.

O new study It started before the pandemic, when a group of scientists from six countries, including the UK, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland, came together to study mental health. At the start of COVID-19, they decided to change gears and track nearly 300,000 volunteers as they battled the pandemic.

Nearly 10,000 people fell ill between late March 2020 and mid-August 2021, including around 2,200 sick enough to remain in bed for a week or more and 300 ended up in hospital.

Valdemarsdottir and his colleagues showed that those who spent seven or more days lying in bed had a 50-60% reduced risk of developing depression or anxiety after 16 months.

“Symptoms in this group seemed persistent and not improving over time, which is concerning,” Waldemarsdottir said.

Waldemarsdottir said people who were initially sick and still in pain should not feel alone and should be referred by their doctors for follow-up and further help.

During the injury, many people felt acute stress, worried about the severity of their illness. The study showed that they used to have nightmares and anxiety, but these decreased over time in all groups.

Meanwhile, relatively unharmed infected people felt they no longer had to worry about the virus or possible long-term consequences.

The study couldn’t explain why people still had symptoms, but the fact that they were completely sick to begin with suggests that excessive inflammation during infection may lead to these long-term problems.

“We need to explore these mechanisms in more detail,” Waldemarsdottir said.

Contact Weintraub at kweintraub@usatoday.com

USA TODAY’s health and patient safety coverage is made possible in part by a grant from the Massimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competitiveness in Healthcare. The Massimo Foundation does not provide editorial contributions.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Study found anxiety and depression persisted in bedridden patients

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