Psychological distress increases long COVID-19 risk: Harvard study 

Psychological distress — including depression, anxiety, worry, perceived stress and loneliness — prior to COVID-19 infection was associated with an increased risk for long COVID-19, a new study from Boston-based Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found. 

The study, published Sept. 7 in JAMA Psychiatry, used data from more than 54,000 participants, 3,000 of which contracted COVID-19 between April 2020 and November 2021. Researchers asked the participants about psychological distress prior to infection and followed up with a survey about COVID-19 symptoms and symptom duration for those who were infected.

Researchers found that participants with two or more types of distress prior to infection were at nearly 50 percent increased risk for long COVID-19 symptoms. All types of distress were associated with increased risk of daily life impairment for those with long-term symptoms.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first prospective study to show that a wide range of social and psychological factors are risk factors for long COVID and daily life impairment due to long COVID," Andrea Roberts, PhD, senior author and senior research scientist in the department of environmental health at Harvard Chan School, said in a Sept. 7 news release.

"We need to consider psychological health in addition to physical health as risk factors of long COVID-19. These results also reinforce the need to increase public awareness of the importance of mental health and to get mental healthcare for people who need it, including increasing the supply of mental health clinicians and improving access to care."


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