Research by the US Department of Veterans Affair, newly published in the British Medical Journal, showed that those who tested positive for Covid showed a 60% higher chance of a mental health diagnosis.
The US researchers collated data from 153,848 patients who had contracted the virus and compared their experience of depression with those who had no experience of Covid, while also using data from a control group of people before the pandemic. The groups were tracked for 12 months.
A year after infection, Covid patients were found to be more likely to experience depression, anxiety, substance use and sleep problems.
Not only did those who got infected with Covid show a higher risk of being depressed than non-Covid patients, they also had an increased likelihood of needing a mental health prescription after a year of the virus.
Anxiety was found to be 35% higher and depression 39% for the Covid cohort. Of this group, 55% were more likely to use anti-depressants.
Meanwhile other conditions were also more likely to be experienced by Covid patients, but to a lesser degree. They showed a 2.4% increase in experiencing sleep disorders while 0.4% showed substance abuse problems.
The results were more consistent among those hospitalised for Covid but also apparent among those who did not need hospital treatment and stayed at home. A similar pattern emerged when compared to the control group tested before the pandemic.
Commenting on the study, Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Many people face an uphill battle to rebuild their lives. Treatment is vital but complicated by the reality that most people experiencing mental health difficulties after infection don’t seek help.
“Actively monitoring the recovery of patients through a ‘screen and treat’ programme can help make sure they get the right kind of mental health care at the right time.”
If you have experienced a decline in mental health following coronavirus, contact your GP who will be able to point you in the direction of the right support.
Help and support:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
- CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email email@example.com
- Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on rethink.org.