Covid-19 appears to have a far bigger impact on neurological and mental health conditions compared to the flu, according to researchers.
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Looking specifically at 14 neurological and mental health conditions, researchers analyzed more than 236,000 patients who were diagnosed with the virus over a six-month period and found that 34% of them also had a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis. For 13% of those patients, it was their first recorded neurological or mental health diagnosis.
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Furthermore, survivors were at the highest risk of experiencing anxiety (17%) or mood disorders (14%), the scientists said. There were also risks of experiencing substance-use disorder, insomnia, dementia or a stroke, though those dangers were considerably lower.
“Although the individual risks for most disorders are small, the effect across the whole population may be substantial for health and social care systems due to the scale of the pandemic and that many of these conditions are chronic,” Paul Harrison, the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “As a result, health care systems need to be resourced to deal with the anticipated need, both within primary- and secondary-care services.”
Researchers additionally concluded that Covid-19 increased the “risk of neurological and psychiatric outcomes” among patients who had been hospitalized and that the virus’ impact on those outcomes was greater than those of the flu or respiratory-tract infections.
The study appeared to confirm a previous report that had asserted that surviving Covid-19 patients were at increased risk of experiencing a disorder within the first three months of infection.
“This is a very important paper,” Simon Wessely, chair of psychiatry at King’s College London, told Reuters, following the most recent study’s release. “It confirms beyond any reasonable doubt that Covid-19 affects both brain and mind in equal measure.”