Mental illness raises risk of severe COVID-19, studies suggest

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People with a mental illness who contract COVID-19 are more likely to require hospitalization for the infection or die, two recent studies published in JAMA Psychiatry suggest. 

For the first study, published July 27, researchers from France evaluated 16 observational studies from seven countries, including the U.S. A total of 19,086 patients with a mental illness who contracted COVID-19 between December 2019 and July 2020 were included. 

Findings showed patients with addiction, depression and other mental health disorders were more likely to die of COVID-19 than those without mental illness, despite other primary medical risk factors. 

Severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder had the highest adjusted odds ratio for death at 1.68. 

"These findings suggest that patients with COVID-19 and mental health disorders should be targeted as a high-risk population for severe forms of COVID-19, requiring enhanced preventive and disease management strategies," researchers said. 

Researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada led the second study, published July 28. They analyzed 21 studies involving more than 91 million people with and without mood disorders. 

COVID-19 patients with mood disorders were 1.31 times more likely to require hospitalization and 1.51 times more likely to die compared to patients without such disorders. 

At the same time, researchers did not find an association between mood disorders and a person's susceptibility to contracting the infection or severe events. This discrepancy could be due to "interstudy variation in how severe events were defined, differences across studies in event reporting and coding, and heterogeneity in statistical approaches," they said, adding that the sample size for the severe event analysis was relatively small. 

"These results suggest that individuals with mood disorders should be categorized as an at-risk group for COVID-19 hospitalizations and death, providing a basis for vaccine prioritization," the study said. "Future research should address whether COVID-19 vaccinations exhibit differential efficacy in persons with mood disorders and whether COVID-19 infection affects the longitudinal trajectory of the underlying mental disorder." 

 

Researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada led the second study, published July 28. They analyzed 21 studies involving more than 91 million people with and without mood disorders. 

 

COVID-19 patients with mood disorders were 1.31 times more likely to require hospitalization and 1.51 times more likely to die compared to patients without such disorders. 

 

At the same time, researchers did not find an association between mood disorders and a person's susceptibility to contracting the infection or severe events. This discrepancy could be due to "interstudy variation in how severe events were defined, differences across studies in event reporting and coding, and heterogeneity in statistical approaches," they said, adding that the sample size for the severe event analysis was relatively small. 

 

"These results suggest that individuals with mood disorders should be categorized as an at-risk group for COVID-19 hospitalizations and death, providing a basis for vaccine prioritization," the study said. "Future research should address whether COVID-19 vaccinations exhibit differential efficacy in persons with mood disorders and whether COVID-19 infection affects the longitudinal trajectory of the underlying mental disorder." 

 

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