Social isolation, economic stress, loss of loved ones and other struggles during the pandemic have contributed to rising mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
But can having Covid itself increase the risk of developing mental health problems? A large new study suggests it can.
The study, published Wednesday in the journal The BMJ, analyzed records of nearly 154,000 Covid patients in the Veterans Health Administration system and compared their experience in the year after they recovered from their initial infection with that of a similar group of people who did not contract the virus.
The study included only patients who had no mental health diagnoses or treatment for at least two years before becoming infected with the coronavirus, allowing researchers to focus on psychiatric diagnoses and treatment that occurred after coronavirus infection.
People who had Covid were 39 percent more likely to be diagnosed with depression and 35 percent more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety over the months following infection than people without Covid during the same period, the study found. Covid patients were 38 percent more likely to be diagnosed with stress and adjustment disorders and 41 percent more likely to be diagnosed with sleep disorders than uninfected people.
“There appears to be a clear excess of mental health diagnoses in the months after Covid,” said Dr. Paul Harrison, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the study.