Research into the lasting effects of COVID-19 has seen increased rates of psychological and neurological conditions.

Over the last year, it has become clear that COVID is fatal. The staggering death toll and cases have led to plenty of countries enforcing a lockdown. However, the virus may also have a lasting mental impact on people.

Both stress and the virus directly impacting the brain have been linked to the rise in brain-related issues after hospitalisation with COVID-19.

What was tested?

Scientists within the UK looked at over half a million COVID hospitalisations in the US. Using electronic medical records the study looked at whether the patients developed psychological or neurological conditions.

These conditions include:

  • brain haemorrhage
  • stroke
  • Parkinson’s
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome
  • dementia
  • psychosis
  • mood disorders
  • anxiety disorders

What was found?

The biological effects of the virus were attributed to an increased chance of strokes and dementia on the back of the findings. Equally, mood and anxiety disorders saw a significant jump after the virus, and this was attributed to the stressful situation brought about by hospitalisation.

Interestingly, there was no connection between Parkinson’s or Guillain-Barré syndrome and COVID-19.

Naturally, the study accounted for people who were likely to suffer from other illnesses regardless of the virus. However, those who had COVID were 16% more likely to develop a psychological or neurological disorder after hospitalisation.

All in all, the study found that 24% of people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 would experience mood, anxiety or psychotic disorders. This number would increase with the severity of the case.

Additionally, 2% of cases led to strokes and for those who suffered from delirium, there was a 5% chance of dementia.

What has been said?

In the wake of these findings, scientists have discussed its meaning.

Dr Sara Imarisio, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, noted:

“The study doesn’t focus on the cause of this relationship and it is important that researchers get to the bottom of what underlies these findings.”

“Previous studies have highlighted that people with dementia are at higher risk of developing severe Covid-19. This new study investigates whether this relationship may also hold in the other direction.”
There is still debate about whether the virus is bringing out these additional medical problems or causing them.

Prof Dame Til Wykes, at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, discussed the findings:

“The study confirms our suspicions that a Covid-19 diagnosis is not just related to respiratory symptoms, it is also related to psychiatric and neurological problems.

“Looking over six months after diagnosis has demonstrated that the “after-effects” can appear much later than expected – something that is no surprise to those suffering from Long Covid.

“Although as expected, the outcomes are more serious in those admitted to hospital, the study does point out that serious effects are also evident in those who had not been admitted to hospital.”

With this in mind, it seems that COVID could have an additional unexpected impact on people. 

Images via Alamy