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Severe COVID linked to risk of neurologic and psychiatric disorders


New research shows that severe COVID-19, but not mild, infections are linked to a significantly higher risk for psychiatric and neurologic disorders a year after infection. Compared with individuals who never tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID), hospitalized patients with COVID-19 had twice the risk for psychiatric or neurologic disorders during the 12 months after the acute infection.

This new research provides us with even more evidence that COVID is a dangerous disease. As I have written previously, COVID has a significant effect on mental health, and this disease could have a long-term healthcare burden beyond the disease itself.

As usual, I will critique this new study and summarize its findings.

COVID and neurologic disorders study

In a paper published on 12 March 2024 in the respected journal Neurology, senior author Anders Hviid, MSc, DrMedSci, head of the department and professor of pharmacoepidemiology, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues examined data on all recorded hospital contacts between January 2005 and January 2023 for a discharge diagnosis of at least one of 11 psychiatric illnesses or at least one of 30 neurologic disorders.

The researchers compared the incidence of each disorder within 1-12 months after COVID infection with those individuals who had not. The final study population included 1.8 million individuals who tested positive for COVID during the study period and 1.5 million individuals who had not. Approximately three-quarters of those who tested positive were infected primarily with the Omicron variant.

Here are the key findings:

  • Compared with COVID-negative individuals, the risk for any psychiatric disorder was nearly double for hospitalized patients (severe COVID) but was 25% lower among nonhospitalized patients (mild COVID).
  • Compared to COVID-negative individuals, the risk for neurologic disorders was 2.44 higher in patients with severe COVID compared to no difference in risk for patients with mild COVID.

The researchers concluded:

Our study does not support previous findings of substantial postacute neurologic and psychiatric morbidities among the general population of SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals, but does corroborate an elevated risk among the most severe cases with COVID-19.

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Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

Summary

Once more, we have significant data that COVID is a complex disease and that severe COVID-19 is associated with a significantly higher risk for psychiatric and neurologic disorders a year after infection compared to the population that had not been infected. On the other hand, they found that those with mild COVID (not requiring hospitalization) had no or even a lesser risk compared to those who had not contracted the disease.

I think many people trivialize COVID as a benign disease that can be ignored like a cold. But the science just isn’t supporting such a conclusion.

These are just more reasons for one to get the COVID vaccines — they prevent hospitalization which means a lower risk of severe consequences of the disease.

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Michael Simpson

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