Patients with mental health disorders are 1.8 times as likely to die from Covid-19, a study has found, prompting calls for public health officials to do more to support vulnerable groups.
The University of Marseille research, published in JAMA Psychiatry this week, found patients with severe mental health disorders – such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – are particularly at risk, at 2.3 times more likely to die from Covid than patients without mental health issues.
The analysis, which looked at 16 studies covering 19,086 people’s medical records from seven countries, even found a higher chance of death after adjusting for risk factors such as obesity and age in people with severe mental disorders (1.7 times) and mental disorders as a whole (1.4 times).
Public health decision-makers must prioritise mental health patients for disease prevention, vaccinations, treatment and specific training for hospital staff, the researchers urged.
They suggested immune system differences in people with bipolar or schizophrenia could possibly explain the higher risks in these groups. Other factors could include access to healthcare, addiction, psychiatric medication and a wide range of social factors, they added.
However, they said future studies should look at the risk of death for each mental health disorder, as opposed to mental health disorders as a whole.
The scientists concluded: ‘Patients with mental health disorders should have been targeted as a high-risk population for severe forms of Covid-19, requiring enhanced preventive and disease management strategies.
‘However, future studies should evaluate the risk for each mental health disorder, which could not be determined with the current published data.’
In December last year, research found healthcare workers have a seven-times increased risk of having severe Covid-19 as those with non-essential jobs, while those working in social care are two-and-a-half times as likely.
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