One in five Covid-19 patients diagnosed with mental health disorder after positive test, study reveals

Around one in five people diagnosed with Covid-19 experience poor mental health within three months of testing positive, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Oxford and the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic will have a significant psychological, as well as physical, impact on the nation.

To carry out the investigation, researchers analysed the medical records of more than 69 million people, of which 62,000 were confirmed to have received a Covid-19 diagnosis.

It was found that, three months after testing positive for Covid-19, one in five (20 per cent) patients received a diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia for the first time – a rate around two times higher than the general population.

Those who tested positive but already had a history of poor mental health also reported more severe symptoms, the study found.

Commenting on the paper, author Professor Paul Harrison, from the University of Oxford, said: “People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems, and our findings in a large and detailed study show this to be likely.

“Services need to be ready to provide care, especially since our results are likely to be underestimates of the actual number of cases. We urgently need research to investigate the causes and identify new treatments.”

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.

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