Research links to long term mental health issues


According to researchers from the UK and Scandinavia, there may be a link between the risk of long-term adverse mental health effects and serious Covid-19 illness. Click here for more information about Access to Mental Health Nursing.

They said it was the first study to look at long-term mental health implications for patients who were bedridden for more than a week following a diagnosis of the disease. Overall, most mental health symptoms among recovering cases subsided within two months after diagnosis, said the study authors in the journal The Lancet Public Health.


But patients who were bedridden for seven days or more were more likely to experience depression and anxiety over the 16-month duration of the study, which involved data from six countries. This study was conducted by researchers from Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, and the UK. They noted that the pandemic upended many aspects of daily life and there was a well-documented effect of social distancing, coupled with a general uncertainty, on many people’s mental health. But they said most previous studies had only examined adverse mental health impacts for up to six months after a diagnosis.


Much less was known about the long-term mental health impacts beyond that period, particularly for non-hospitalised patients with varying degrees of illness severity, said the researchers. They looked at the prevalence of depression, anxiety, symptomatic-related distress, and poor sleep quality among people with and without a diagnosis over a mean follow-up of 5.65 months. Of the 247,249 people included, 9,979 – equivalent to 4% – were diagnosed with the disease between February 2020 and August 2021.

Overall, those diagnosed with the disease had a higher prevalence of depression and poorer sleep quality compared to individuals who were never diagnosed. For example, 20.2% versus 11.3% experienced symptoms of depression, 29.4% versus 23.8% experienced poor sleep, equivalent to an 18% and 13% increase in prevalence, respectively. However, there were no overall differences between participants with or without the disease in the rates of anxiety or Covid-related distress, noted the researchers.

They also highlighted that people diagnosed with the disease but never bedridden due to their illness were less likely to experience depression and anxiety than those not diagnosed with the disease. They suggested that the return to normal lives was a relief for these individuals while those still not infected were still anxious about the risk of infection and burdened by social isolation.

The analysis found a clear reduction of some mental health symptoms such as depression and symptomatic-related distress with time. By contrast, longer time bedridden was consistently associated with a higher prevalence of mental health effects, said the researchers. Over 16 months, patients bedridden for seven days or more continued to be 50-60% more likely to experience higher depression and anxiety than those never infected during the study period.

The quicker recovery of physical coronavirus symptoms may explain in part why mental health symptoms decline at a similar rate for those with a mild infection, said the study authors. However, they noted that patients with severe sars illness often experienced inflammation, which has previously been linked to chronic mental health effects, particularly depression. The study included researchers from the Centre for Genomic and Experimental Medicine, which is part of the University of Edinburgh, and based at Western General Hospital. Ford, S. 2022.


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Source: Nursing Times, Long Term Mental Health