High risk of mental illness, sleep issues, and fatigue after Covid-19 infection, study finds

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  • A study compared the mental health, sleep and fatigue levels of Covid-19 positive and negative people.
  • The Covid positive subjects had a higher risk of psychiatric illness.
  • These people also experienced sleeping problems and fatigue.

People who test positive for Covid-19 have a higher risk of psychiatric illness and are more likely to experience sleep problems and fatigue, according to a new study.

The study published in JAMA Network Open investigated whether Covid-19 infection is associated with the risk of psychiatric morbidity, sleep problems, or fatigue.

The researchers gathered data from more than 11.9 million health records. Of these, 232 780 people had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. 

Participants with positive Covid-19 results without prior mental illness, anxiety, depression, psychosis, fatigue, or sleep problems were matched with up to four people who did not have Covid-19.

Patients were followed up for 10 months from 1 February to 9 December 9 2020. The researchers then analysed their health records from January to July 2021.

Covid-19 after-effects 

The study findings show that SARS-CoV-2 infection was associated with an increased risk of psychiatric illness such as depression, anxiety, psychosis, and self-harm. However, a direct association between SARS-CoV-2 and psychiatric outcomes is difficult to establish.

“We believe the most likely unobserved confounding variables are occupation and health anxiety. While many individuals were placed on furlough or worked from home, many work sectors (e.g. healthcare workers) were required to continue normally, raising their likelihood of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and potentially leading to excess psychological strain,” the authors wrote.

The findings also show that people with Covid-19 were more likely to experience sleep problems and fatigue in the months following infection.

The study found that people who had influenza at the same time had an increased chance of psychiatric morbidity, fatigue, and sleep problems – similar to those with Covid-19 infection.

“Overall, there were fewer cases of influenza observed during the Covid-19 pandemic, and individuals who presented with influenza may have been more likely to have a severe infection, preexisting morbidity, and/or psychological risk factors,” the study states.

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