Nearly one in five people (18.1%) with Covid-19 receive a diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia within three months, according to researchers, who warned mental health services need to be ready.
The Oxford study – based on 69m US health records, including 62,354 with a Covid-19 diagnosis – also found that people with a pre-existing psychiatric diagnosis were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19, even with other risk factors taken into account.
Dr Max Taquet, from the NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre, which worked on the study, said the ‘finding was unexpected and needs investigation’, adding that ‘having a psychiatric disorder should be added to the list of risk factors for Covid-19′ in the meantime.
The incidence of any diagnosis of mental ill-health in the 14 to 90 days after a Covid-19 diagnosis was 18.1%, the research found.
Covid-19 also roughly doubles the risk of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder for the first time, it concluded.
It found this after comparing control data from influenza, another respiratory tract infection, skin infection, cholelithiasis, urolithiasis and fracture of a large bone, to Covid-19 patients.
In the Covid-19 groups, 5.8% later received a first mental illness diagnosis. But in control groups, 2.5% to 2.4% of patients received their first diagnosis of a psychiatric illness following their illness.
Covid-19 was also associated with more new psychiatric diagnoses in people who already had a history of psychiatric problems, it found.
Paul Harrison, professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford, also involved in the study, said that the findings show it is likely that ‘Covid-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems’.
He continued: ‘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,’ he added.
The UK lockdown had a ‘major’ impact on the mental health of women, young people and people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, a study published last month found.