covid-19-infection-causes-mental-health-issues,-eating-disorders:-studies

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Coronavirus is causing mental health issues in patients, according to new studies. 

In a large study published Wednesday in the journal The BMJ, researchers from St. Louis analyzed the records of 153,848 people from the Veterans Health Administration system. 

The study included only people who had no mental health diagnoses or treatment for at least two years prior to infection, and the cohort study divvied participants into those who survived the first 30 days of SARS-CoV-2 infection and two control groups. 

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The control groups included a contemporary one with no evidence of infection from the virus and a historical group that predated the pandemic.

Those with COVID-19 were 39% more likely to have depressive disorders and 35% more likely to show an increased risk of incident anxiety disorders over the months after infection.

That group was also 38% more likely to be diagnosed with stress and adjustment disorders and 41% more likely to be diagnosed with sleep disorders.

A depressed young woman

A depressed young woman (Credit: iStock)

COVID-19 patients were 80% more likely to develop neurocognitive problems and 34% more likely to develop opioid use disorders.

More than 18% of COVID-19 patients received a diagnosis or prescription for a neuropsychiatric issue in the following year.

“The risk of incident mental health disorders was consistently higher in the COVID-19 group in comparisons of people with covid-19 not admitted to hospital versus those not admitted to hospital for seasonal influenza, admitted to hospital with covid-19 versus admitted to hospital with seasonal influenza, and admitted to hospital with covid-19 versus admitted to hospital for any other cause,” the authors wrote.

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However, between 4.4% and 5.6% of people in the study received diagnoses of depression, anxiety or stress and adjustment disorders.

The average age of those in the study was 61, 90% of whom were men.

Study author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of research and development for the VA St. Louis Health Care System and clinical epidemiologist at Washington University, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Thursday that there were enough women participants to draw the same conclusions.

“We need to get them the treatments they need so this does not degenerate into a much larger crisis,” he told the publication. “Just because of the enormity of COVID in the U.S., the numbers here represent really millions of people.”

Long COVID, or post-COVID conditions, occur four or more weeks after first being infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The agency said some symptoms include difficulty breathing, brain fog, joint or muscle pain, sleep problems, mood swings, change in menstrual period cycle and change in smell or taste.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide, with 72% of mental health services for adolescents halted between June and August 2020.

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A recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health looking at eating-disorder-related hospitalizations at Boston Children’s Hospital found that there has been a surge in the prevalence of such disorders for the age group.

According to GlobalData, epidemiologists expect that the 12-month diagnosed prevalent cases of binge-eating disorder will likely increase and surpass current forecast estimates over the next five years.

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