Long Haul

A Third of COVID Patients Are Diagnosed With “Brain Disease”

Anxiety and mood disorders are particularly common.

Apr 7 / Dan Robitzski
Image by Futurism

A new study found that a shockingly high percentage of patients who catch COVID-19 are diagnosed with some sort of brain-related condition within six months.

Roughly 34 percent of coronavirus patients included in the study were diagnosed with either a neurological or psychological condition, according to research published Tuesday in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. Most common among them was anxiety, which was reported for about 17 percent of the 236,000-plus coronavirus patients included in the study, closely followed by mood disorders at 14 percent.

“This is a robust piece of work in a large cohort demonstrating the association between COVID-19-19 and psychiatric and neurological complications,” a University of Nottingham psychiatrist who didn’t work on the study named Musa Sami told CNN. “This is a very important topic as there has been considerable consternation regarding COVID-19 as a ‘brain disease.'”

Other studies have probed the prevalence of neurological conditions among coronavirus survivors. But they didn’t definitively answer whether those conditions were linked to the coronavirus or if they had simply gone undetected until that person was treated. However, this new research by University of Oxford neuroscientists and psychiatrists compared the COVID-19 numbers to those of other respiratory diseases and found that it wasn’t even a close comparison.


“Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after COVID-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections, even when patients are matched for other risk factors,” study coauthor and University of Oxford psychiatry fellow Maxime Taquet told CNN. “We now need to see what happens beyond six months.”

The study also made a clearer distinction between mental health conditions and severe neurological problems like Parkinson’s or the risk of stroke. The latter, they found, was tied to more severe cases of COVID-19, while psychological conditions were just as common regardless of how hard the coronavirus hit.

“It’s really the people with very severe illness who are at higher risk of developing the neurological complications, unlike what we see with the mental health complications, which is much more across the board with severity,” study co-author and Oxford neurologist Masud Husain told CNN.

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