The long-term effects of Covid-19 on mental health

The past two years of the pandemic have had a decidedly negative impact on global mental health. In addition to the psychological and cognitive repercussions of concern for one’s own and others’ health and the discomfort caused by months of social distancing and economic crisis, some studies show that contagion of the Sars-Cov-2 virus increases the risk of developing mental health problems of various types in the period following the acute phase of the disease. This thesis was also confirmed by researchers at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center for Clinical Epidemiology in Saint Louis, Missouri, led by Dr. Ziyad Al-Alywhose results suggest that Covid survivors are at higher risk of developing mental problems of various kinds even long after having contracted the disease.

In fact, if some previous studies had investigated the negative effects of covid on mental health in the post-acute phase of infection up to six months after infectionthis new research shows that people who have contracted covid and are cured are more likely to develop mental health problems of various kinds than those who have not had covid. even a year after infection.

These results are the result of huge cohort study conducted by Al-Aly and his co-authors from the analysis of medical records of more than 153,000 US Army veterans. The data in question was collected from US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Health System Databasewho offers them comprehensive health care: outpatient health check-ups, medical and hospital services, prescription of drugs and therapies, various specialized visits or even psychological assistance.

The data used for the study concern in particular 153,848 cases of American veterans who contracted covid in the first ten and a half months since the start of the pandemic in the United States and have survived more than 30 days since the first positive swab. To understand whether these people had more often developed mental disorders than those who had never taken covid, the authors constructed two control groups also made up of people whose data was present in the VA database. The first of these groups included the medical records of approximately 5.6 million veterans who, over the past two years of the pandemic they were not infected with covid. The other control group was formed by collecting health data from 5.8 million veterans over a roughly one-year period between 2017 and 2018, when the pandemic had not yet struck. More precisely, for each person, data relating to a period of approximately 380 days.

The authors also divided the group of veterans who contracted covid into two subgroups: the first gathers data from patients who during the acute phase of the infection were hospitalized (which includes 20,996 people) and the second collects cases for which, instead, hospitalization was not necessary (composed of the remaining 132,852 people).

Al-Aly and co-authors’ analysis focused on different types of psychological problems: anxiety disorders of various kinds, depressive disorders (major or recurrent depression), stress (including post-traumatic) addiction opioids and other substances psychotropics (such as drugs, alcohol and sedatives), sleep disorders and related diseases neurocognitive decline.

By comparing the number of people who, for each group, developed mental problems during the period considered, the authors confirmed that for veterans who had recovered from covid, the risks of suffering from mental disorders were higher than those included in the two control groups.

Indeed, for people who had taken and transmitted the covid, the risk of developing one of the mental disorders considered by the authors or by get prescription medication for mental health issues was bigger than the 60% compared to those who had never been infected. This increased risk, compared to those who had never had covid, was del 35% for anxiety disordersfrom 39% for the depressedfrom 41% for sleep disordersfrom 34% for opiate addiction he was born in 20% for addiction to other substances other than opioids.

Al-Aly and his colleagues also noted the odds of being diagnosed with a mental disorder were even higher for those who had been hospitalized to the hospital for covid. In addition, the authors made a comparison between the medical records of patients who had contracted the covid and those who had instead had theseasonal flu. Again, the results showed that people who had been infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus were more likely to suffer from one of the considered mental disorders.


The results suggest that people who survive the acute phase of covid-19 are at higher risk of developing certain mental disorders. Tackling mental health issues among those recovered from Covid-19 should be a priority

“Risks of mental health outcomes in people with covid-19: a cohort study”, Yan Xie et al., The Bmj, 2022

As stated in the study, it’s not clear yet what are the mechanisms which explain the link between covid-19 infection and the increased likelihood of suffering from mental disorders. There is also to consider what this relationship could be bidirectional. Indeed, some studies are cited in the work of Al-Aly and co-authors that suggest that people with pre-existing mental disorders are at higher risk of contracting severe covid.

Enfin, il est Ă©galement utile de souligner les limite principale de ce travail de recherche, qui est mentionnĂ© par les auteurs eux-mĂȘmes. En fait, c’est un Ă©tude de cohortequi comprenait, comme nous l’avons dit, VĂ©tĂ©rans de l’armĂ©e amĂ©ricaine uniquementl’Ă©chantillon de personnes considĂ©rĂ© il ne peut ĂȘtre considĂ©rĂ© comme reprĂ©sentatif de l’ensemble de la sociĂ©tĂ© amĂ©ricaine. En fait, plus de 70% des individus inclus dans le total des trois groupes Ă©taient blancsla 90% Ă©taient des hommes Et l’Ăąge moyen Ă©tait de 63 ans.

MalgrĂ© cela, les auteurs dĂ©fendent la validitĂ© de leur travail et soutiennent que leurs rĂ©sultats devraient plutĂŽt servir Ă  attirer davantage l’attention des Service de santĂ© amĂ©ricain vers la dĂ©fense de la santĂ© mentale parmi ceux rĂ©cupĂ©rĂ©s du covid-19. Ce n’est qu’en augmentant notre comprĂ©hension du lien entre covid et troubles mentaux il est en effet possible d’identifier les interventions les plus efficaces pour protĂ©ger Ă  long terme le bien-ĂȘtre psychologique de toutes les personnes qui ont Ă©tĂ© infectĂ©es par le virus au cours des deux derniĂšres annĂ©es et de celles qui seront infectĂ©es Ă  l’avenir.

“Nos rĂ©sultats devraient ĂȘtre utilisĂ©s pour promouvoir la prise de conscience du risque accru de troubles de santĂ© mentale chez les survivants de la phase aiguĂ« du covid-19 et appeler Ă  l’intĂ©gration des soins de santĂ© mentale en tant qu’Ă©lĂ©ment clĂ© des stratĂ©gies post-soins aigus. Les organismes internationaux, les gouvernements nationaux et les systĂšmes de santĂ© doivent Ă©laborer et mettre en Ɠuvre des stratĂ©gies d’identification et de traitement prĂ©coces des personnes touchĂ©es », soutiennent les auteurs.

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