Coronavirus: Increased risk of mental disorders after COVID-19

Coronavirus: Increased risk of mental disorders after COVID-19

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Severe COVID-19 courses increase the risk of psychiatric problems

Severe COVID-19 infections with intensive care units and mechanical ventilation could increase the risk of serious psychiatric complications. This is the result of a current meta-analysis by an English research team.

Researchers from University College London and King’s College London showed that people who were hospitalized for SARS-CoV-2 infection are at increased risk of post-recovery psychiatric problems. The results were recently presented in the renowned journal "The Lancet Psychiatry".

Severe SARS-CoV-2 infections hit the psyche

"Our analysis focuses on potential mental health risks associated with coronavirus infection in hospital, and how psychiatric illnesses could worsen the prognosis or prevent people from returning to normal life after recovery," explains Dr. Jonathan Rogers, one of the study authors.

Delirium often occurs in severe COVID-19 cases

The analysis showed that one in four people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 experienced delirium during the course of the disease. This state of mental confusion, which is primarily characterized by impaired consciousness and thinking, is a known problem that can increase the risk of death or prolong hospitalization.

Psychiatric consequences in SARS and MERS infections

Studies of the similar viruses SARS-1 and MERS have already shown that long-term psychiatric consequences can occur after the illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic fatigue, depression and anxiety. The researchers suggest that this can also apply to COVID-19.

Most sufferers will not have any mental health problems

"Most people with COVID-19 will not develop mental health problems, including those with severe cases that require hospitalization, but given the large number of people who get sick, the global mental health impact could be significant." , emphasizes Dr. Rogers.

What psychiatric disorders did SARS and MERS experience?

The results of a total of 65 studies and seven unsupervised preprints were taken into account. It was found that almost one in three people admitted to the hospital with SARS or MERS developed post-traumatic stress disorder within three years after the illness, especially if there were persistent physical health problems.

The rates of depression and anxiety were also high. Around 15 percent of the seriously ill developed an anxiety disorder or depression after the infection. Symptoms such as chronic fatigue, mood swings, sleep disorders or problems with concentration and memory occurred in more than 15 percent of those affected.

What are the indications for COVID-19?

During the hospital stay, many COVID-19 sufferers with severe courses experienced delirium with symptoms such as confusion, restlessness and impaired consciousness. These symptoms also occurred with SARS and MERS and were a first indication of possible psychiatric consequences.

"We need more research on how we can prevent mental health problems in the long term," adds Dr. Edward Chesney from the study team. One way could be to reduce social isolation by allowing those affected to communicate with their loved ones via video telephony.

Who has increased risks of psychiatric problems?

The research also identified some of the risk factors associated with poorer mental health forecasts. Particularly worried patients had an increased risk of psychiatric consequences. On the other hand, good physical recovery was associated with better long-term mental health.

"While most people with COVID-19 will recover without mental illness, we need to research what factors can contribute to permanent mental health problems and develop interventions to prevent and treat them," said lead author Professor Anthony David. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • UCL: Coronavirus infections may lead to delirium and potentially PTSD (published: May 19, 2020),
  • Jonathan P Rogers, Edward Chesney, Dominic Oliver, et al .: Psychiatric and neuropsychiatric presentations associated with severe coronavirus infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis with comparison to the COVID-19 pandemic; in: The Lancet Psychiatry, 2020,

Video: Can the coronavirus cause permanent brain damage? COVID-19 Special (July 2022).


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