Using information from the TriNetX electronic health record network in the US, a recent study from the University of Oxford and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre examined neurological and psychiatric diagnoses in more than 1.25 million people after being diagnosed with COVID-19 infection.
The study compares the prevalence of 14 neurological and mental disorders with a matched group of individuals recovering from various respiratory infections over a 2-year period. Additionally, it gives statistics individually for children and older individuals and compares data from the three waves of the epidemic. These are the first reliable data addressing these crucial topics that we are aware of.
Many of the problems are more frequent after COVID-19, supporting earlier findings. Notably, the elevated risk of anxiety and depression following COVID-19 decreases within two months and, over the course of two years, is no more likely to happen than following other respiratory infections. On the other hand, after COVID-19, diagnoses for a variety of neurological conditions (including dementia and seizures), as well as for psychotic disorders and “brain fog,” continue to increase.
Children (under the age of 18) showed results that were similar to and different from adults. They did not have a higher risk of anxiety or depression than children who had other respiratory infections, and the likelihood of the majority of diagnoses following COVID-19 was lower than in adults.
Children recovering from COVID-19 were more likely than adults to receive a diagnosis for several diseases, such as seizures and psychotic disorders.
The wave with the delta version was more prevalent than the wave with the alpha variant before it. Similar neurological and mental dangers apply to the omicron wave as they do to the delta wave.
The study includes a number of restrictions. The severity and prognosis of the illnesses remain unknown. It is also unclear when they started because issues could exist for some time before a diagnosis is obtained. Unknown immunizations and unreported COVID-19 incidences add considerable doubt to the findings.
The study’s principal investigator, Professor Paul Harrison of the University of Oxford’s Department of Psychiatry and Theme Lead of the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, says it is encouraging that the excess of depression and anxiety diagnoses following COVID-19 are transient and are not seen in children. Even two years later, it is concerning because several additional illnesses, such seizures and dementia, are still more likely to be detected following COVID-19. Additionally, it seems that omicron, despite being a less serious acute sickness, is followed by frequencies of these diagnoses.
The investigations were headed by Dr. Max Taquet, an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow at the University of Oxford “The findings provide new insight into how COVID-19 infection may affect a person’s long-term mental and neurological health. The findings have consequences for individuals and healthcare systems and demonstrate the need for additional study to determine why this occurs after COVID-19 and what can be done to stop or treat these illnesses when they do.”