Covid’s Impact on the Brain

6 months after a COVID-19 diagnosis, 1 in 3 patients are diagnosed with a neuropsychiatric condition, according to a large study published in The Lancet Psychiatry yesterday. 

  • ~1 in 8—12.8%—received first-time diagnoses with 1 of 13 brain disorders including, most commonly, anxiety or depression.

  • A smaller—but still concerning—percentage experienced serious neurological complications, eg: ischemic strokes (2.1%) or dementia (0.7%).

Comparing 236,379 people diagnosed with COVID-19—drawn from the health records of 81 million US patients—to those diagnosed with other illnesses, the researchers found: 

  • 44% higher risk of neurological and mental health diagnoses compared to flu
  • 16% higher risk compared other respiratory tract infections
  • More support for previous studies tying a rise in brain disorders to illness severity

What's New: The distinction between neurological and psychiatric complications. Patients with severe cases showed a higher risk of conditions like dementia or stroke, while those who developed anxiety or depression “spanned the spectrum” of severity.
The Big Takeaway: More research is needed on the reasons for the links and treatment and prevention—but regardless, health providers should brace for increased demand for services in the years ahead.

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