NMSU – A new nationwide study examining long-term psychological burdens of COVID-19 found that survivors of the disease are significantly more likely to experience depression or anxiety.
Jagdish Khubchandani, professor of public health at New Mexico State University, led the study to understand the relationship between COVID-19 and post-illness psychological symptoms.
The study, published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, found that those previously infected with COVID-19 were almost three times more likely to report anxiety symptoms than those never infected COVID-19.
Similarly, the study also found that those previously infected with COVID-19 were almost two times more likely to report depressions symptoms and roughly 2.6 times more likely to report symptoms of both anxiety and depression than those never infected with COVID-19.
The study included 3,633 adult participants from the United States. Among the participants, 23 percent had a history of COVID-19 infection, 47 percent had depression symptoms, 40 percent had anxiety symptoms, and 38 percent had symptoms of both depression and anxiety.
Participants who had symptoms of depression or anxiety were significantly more likely to be Hispanic or white; 18-25 years old; married, divorced or separated; living in rural areas; earning less than $60,000 per year; and had a previous COVID-19 infection. Despite adjusting and accounting for these sociodemographic factors, COVID-19 infection survivors were more likely to have poorer psychological health, according to the study.
Khubchandani said previous research examining long-term COVID-19 psychological conditions relied on limited data from health care facilities, older patients, patients who were actively seeking COVID-19 care, those with multiple chronic health conditions and people living outside the U.S.
“Such individuals may have a more serious illness from COVID‐19 and multiple health issues resulting in poorer outcomes from the COVID‐19 infections,” he said. “There were hundreds of thousands of adult Americans who became infected with COVID‐19 and were not hospitalized or seen by a health care provider. We wanted to explore the true burden of long COVID-19 psychological symptoms among the general public.”
Khubchandani said the study findings and previous research suggest long-term COVID-19 psychological conditions have complex and multifactorial causes. But, he added, the causes can be broadly classified as neurobiological and pathophysiologic changes related to COVID-19 infection, psychosocial stressors associated with getting infected, and sociodemographic factors making individuals more vulnerable to both mental illness and COVID-19 infections.
“Long COVID-19 will remain a challenge for the health care system for the next few years,” Khubchandani said, “and continued research from community-based samples will help us understand the true nature and extent of the problem.”