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Patients with mental health disorders are at a high risk of dying from COVID-19, a new study suggests.
Researchers at Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, compiled results from 16 papers on the topic to compare mortality risk for patients who did and did not have a mental health disorder.
Overall, patients with mental health disorders were 1.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19.
What’s more, those with severe conditions – such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – were 2.3 times more likely to die.
The researchers say the findings provide more evidence for why these patients should be a priority for vaccination and other Covid prevention efforts.
Patients with mental health disorders were 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid than those without a diagnosis, a new study finds (file image)
Researchers compiled results from 16 studies on this topic, finding that overall mental health disorder patients are about twice as likely to die from Covid as those without a diagnosis
While dementia and other neurological conditions are known to be risk factors for severe Covid, scientists are still learning about how the disease intersects with mental health disorders.
Mental health disorders range from severe conditions – such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – to more common ones, like anxiety and depression.
Anxiety disorders impact about 40 million adults in the U.S., or 18 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
It’s common for adults with mental health conditions to also suffer from a physical condition, like diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and substance abuse – many of these physical conditions are also Covid risk factors.
In addition, mental health disorder patients are likely to have reduced access to healthcare and other socioeconomic barriers.
These barriers can lead to worse Covid outcomes as well.
Some past studies have found that severe mental health disorders are linked to a higher risk of dying from Covid. But there’s less established information on other, less-severe conditions.
A new study published Tuesday in JAMA Psychiatry helps fill this information gap.
The study was led by Dr Guillaume Fond from Aix-Marseille University in Marseille, France, with collaborators from other French institutions and Seoul, South Korea.
It was a systematic review and meta-analysis, meaning that the researchers compiled results from a number of papers all examining the same question.
This review included 16 papers from seven different countries. Of those 16, seven studies were done in the U.S., three in South Korea, and two in France.
The 16 studies analyzed anonymous medical records from more than 19,000 patients.
The researchers pooled the individual papers’ results and did statistical analysis, determining the overall differences in Covid mortality between patients who did and did not suffer from mental health disorders.
Patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were, overall, 2.3 times more likely to die of Covid compared to patients without a diagnosis
Overall, the researchers found that those patients with mental health disorders were 1.75 times more likely to die from Covid, compared to patients without that diagnosis.
For patients with severe disorders – schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – the risk of dying was 2.26 times higher.
In other words, a mental health disorder almost doubles a patient’s risk – and a severe disorder more than doubles it.
Patients with severe disorders may be more at risk because they have a specific immune system profile that’s less able to protect against viral infection, the researchers wrote.
The death risk for patients with mental health disorders was still much higher when researchers adjusted for other severe Covid factors, such as age and obesity.
As a result, the researchers said that factors outside of these conditions are likely leading to higher death risks for these patients: barriers to healthcare, higher risk for drug and alcohol addiction, and other social determinants of health.
Due to a lack of data from the 16 studies in their meta-analysis, the researchers weren’t able to compare the risk of different mental health disorders.
More study is needed in this area, the researchers said, so that doctors may determine if conditions such as severe depression are also higher risk.
The researchers also suggested that more research is needed on mental health disorder patients’ need for intensive care and other treatments in the hospital.
Because mental health disorder patients are at a higher risk of dying from Covid, the researchers said they should be a priority for Covid prevention efforts.
This includes vaccination campaigns, treatments in the hospital, and training for healthcare workers to reduce mental illness stigma in health settings.