We know that COVID has longer-term effects on mental health. For example, after COVID infection, about 10% of people experience persistent mental distress. This occurs in all different groups of people, such as women, 18-30 years olds, people with pre-existing mental or physical health problems, and those living in deprived areas. However, ethnic minority communities are the most affected.
Long-term mental health impact
A new study from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs compared 153,848 patients who survived at least 30 days after a positive COVID PCR test to control groups without COVID. Researchers looked at long-term effects on mental health up to one year.
The results showed that people with COVID had higher risk of mental health problems compared to people who did not have COVID but who were still exposed to lockdowns and other public health measures. These mental health problems include depression, anxiety, stress and adjustment disorders (a condition in which a person has an exaggerated response to a stressful or traumatic event). Also, there was evidence of greater risk of substance use disorders, neurocognitive decline, and sleep problems. These risks were clear even among people whose disease was mild and did not require a hospital stay.
The results show that COVID is not only a respiratory virus, but can cause damage in nearly every organ system in the body. Beyond the physical impact, COVID can also cause mental health disorders and neurocognitive decline. Addressing mental health disorders among survivors of COVID should be a priority.