Mental health problems double the risk of patients dying from COVID-19
Patients with mental health disorders are at high risk of dying from COVID-19, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the University of Aix-Marseille in Marseille, France, have compiled the results of 16 articles on the subject to compare the risk of mortality for patients with and not with mental health disorders.
Overall, patients with mental health disorders were 1.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
Additionally, people with serious illnesses – such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – were 2.3 times more likely to die.
Researchers say the results provide more evidence why these patients should be a priority for vaccination and other Covid prevention efforts.
Patients with mental health disorders were 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid than those without a diagnosis, new study finds (file image)
Researchers have compiled the results of 16 studies on this topic, concluding that patients with mental health disorders overall are about twice as likely to die from Covid than those without a diagnosis
While dementia and other neurological conditions are known to be risk factors for severe Covid, scientists continue to learn how the disease interferes with mental health disorders.
Mental health disorders range from serious conditions – like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – to more common conditions, like anxiety and depression.
Anxiety disorders affect about 40 million adults in the United States, or 18% of the population, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
It is common for adults with mental health issues to also suffer from a physical issue, such as diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and drug addiction – many of these physical issues are risk factors for Covid as well.
In addition, patients with mental disorders are likely to have reduced access to health care and other socio-economic barriers.
These obstacles can also lead to worse outcomes from Covid.
Some previous studies have shown that severe mental disorders are linked to a higher risk of dying from Covid. But there is less established information on other less serious conditions.
A new study published Tuesday in JAMA Psychiatry helps fill this information gap.
The study was led by Dr Guillaume Fond from the University of Aix-Marseille in Marseille, France, with collaborators from other French institutions and from Seoul, South Korea.
It was a systematic review and a meta-analysis, meaning the researchers compiled the results of a number of articles all examining the same question.
This review included 16 articles from seven different countries. Of these 16, seven studies were carried out in the United States, three in South Korea and two in France.
The 16 studies analyzed the anonymous medical records of more than 19,000 patients.
The researchers pooled the results of individual articles and performed statistical analysis, determining the overall differences in Covid mortality between patients who suffered and did not suffer from mental health disorders.
Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were, overall, 2.3 times more likely to die from Covid than patients without a diagnosis
Overall, the researchers found that patients with mental health disorders were 1.75 times more likely to die from Covid, compared to patients without this diagnosis.
For patients with serious disorders – schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – the risk of death was 2.26 times higher.
In other words, a mental health disorder almost doubles a patient’s risk – and a severe disorder twice as much.
Patients with severe disorders may be at greater risk because they have a specific immune system profile that is less able to protect against viral infections, the researchers wrote.
The risk of death for patients with mental health disorders was even much higher when researchers adjusted for other serious Covid factors, such as age and obesity.
As a result, the researchers said factors other than these conditions likely lead to higher risks of death for these patients: barriers to healthcare, higher risk of drug and alcohol addiction, and other social determinants of health.
Due to a lack of data from the 16 studies in their meta-analysis, researchers were unable to compare the risk of different mental health disorders.
More studies are needed in this area, the researchers said, so that doctors can determine whether conditions such as severe depression are also at higher risk.
The researchers also suggested that more research is needed on the needs of patients with mental disorders in intensive care and other hospital treatment.
Because patients with mental health disorders are at a higher risk of dying from Covid, researchers said they should be a priority for Covid prevention efforts.
This includes vaccination campaigns, hospital treatment and training for healthcare workers to reduce the stigma of mental illness in healthcare settings.