An insight article published in The Lancet psychiatry in May 2022 by Paul Harrison, Professor of Psychiatry at Oxford University and Associate Head of Research, The Chair of Oxford Neuroscience Committee analyses this.

The first analysis published in The Lancet psychiatry of more than 60,000 survivors of COVID-19, mostly in the United States, showed that a diagnosis of COVID-19 was associated with an increased incidence of a first or a recurrent psychiatric diagnosis in the following 14 to 90 days compared with that occurring after six other health events, including influenza, respiratory tract infections and bone fractures.

The greatest increased incidence was found for anxiety disorders.

The study also showed that having an existing psychiatric diagnosis was linked to an increased risk of COVID-19.

The second study also published in The Lancet Psychiatry of more than 230,000 survivors of COVID-19 provided further evidence for substantial psychiatric, and neurological, morbidity in the six months after COVID-19 infection, (one in three patients were diagnosed with a psychiatric or neurological condition, and one in eight received their first such diagnosis of this kind).

The risks were greatest in but not limited to, patients who had severe symptoms of COVID-19.

The third study, published in PLOS Medicine, studied more than 270,000 patients and found that over one in three had one or more features of long-COVID such as fatigue, pain or brain fog, recorded between 3 and 6 months after a diagnosis of COVID-19.

This was significantly higher than after influenza.

The risk of long-COVID features was higher in patients who had more severe COVID-19 illness, and slightly higher amongst females. White and non-white patients were equally affected.

Other studies carried out include one showing a marked increase in eating disorders since the pandemic began and at present they are looking into a detailed study including brain fog, which will conduct a battery of tests on volunteers with the condition to try to identify the causes and potential treatments.

Early clues are that this could be related to persistent inflammation, or small blood clots in the blood vessels of the brain.

Dr Paul Ettlinger

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