People taken ill by coronavirus infections may experience psychiatric problems while hospitalised and potentially after they recover, warn researchers.
The systematic review, published in the journal ”The Lancet Psychiatry”, compiled results from short- and long-term studies of people hospitalised by recent coronaviruses, namely SARS (Severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2002-2004, MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) in 2012, as well as COVID-19 this year.
The analysis found that one in four people hospitalised with COVID-19 may experience delirium during their illness, a known problem among hospital patients, which can increase the risk of death or extend time in hospital. The post-recovery effects of COVID-19 are not yet known, so long-term risks such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic fatigue, depression, and anxiety are based on SARS and MERS studies, which may or may not apply to COVID-19 as well.
“Our analysis focuses on potential mental health risks of being hospitalised with a coronavirus infection, and how psychiatric conditions could worsen the prognosis or hold people back from returning to their normal lives after recovering,” said study co-lead author Dr Jonathan Rogers from University College London in the UK.
For the findings, the research team analysed 65 peer-reviewed studies and seven recent pre-prints that are awaiting peer review, which included data from over 3,500 people who have had one of the three related illnesses.
The review only included results from people who were hospitalised and not people with more mild cases. The findings cover both acute symptoms during the illness and long-term outcomes from two months to 12 years. Almost one in three people hospitalised with SARS or MERS went on to develop PTSD, at an average follow-up time of almost three years, especially if they had ongoing physical health problems.
Rates of depression and anxiety were also high, at roughly 15 per cent one year or longer after the illness, with a further 15 per cent also experiencing some symptoms of depression and anxiety without a clinical diagnosis. More than 15 per cent also experienced chronic fatigue, mood swings, sleep disorder or impaired concentration and memory.While in hospital, a significant minority of people with coronavirus infections experienced delirium symptoms such as confusion, agitation and altered consciousness.
Almost 28 per cent of people hospitalised for SARS and MERS experienced confusion, and early evidence from the ongoing pandemic suggests that delirium could be similarly common in COVID-19 patients. “We need more research on how to prevent mental health problems in the long term,” the researchers noted.