A number of studies have looked at the incidence of Long COVID, including a recently published state-of-the-art review of post-acute sequelae of severe disease.1 This indicates that 33% to 98% of survivors have symptoms or complications for at least a month. The most common of these are fatigue (28.3%‑98%), headache (91.2%), dyspnoea (13.5%‑88%), cough (10%‑13%), chest pain (5%‑42.7%), anxiety or depression (14.6%‑23%) and deficits in smell or taste (13.1%‑67%). The importance of understanding the long-term effects of COVID‑19 is vital in planning future care and management strategies. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U. S. has recently allocated $470 million to build a national study population including diverse research volunteers and, to support large-scale studies on the long-term effects of COVID‑19. This is known as the NIH Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) study.2
A recent study of the effects of the pandemic on anxiety and major depression has estimated a significant increase in the prevalence of both major depressive disorder, with an estimated additional 53.2 million cases worldwide, and anxiety disorders with an additional 76.2 million cases. These findings are particularly concerning because depression and anxiety were already leading causes of disability worldwide. By using the global burden of disease study model, the study gives estimates of additional disability-adjusted life-years (DALYS). Major depressive disorder caused 49.4 million DALYs, and anxiety disorders caused 44.5 million DALYS in 2020.9
Whether the increase in depression and anxiety can be solely ascribed to the effects of the pandemic or whether the disease itself can induce these conditions remains uncertain. Soon after the start of the pandemic, a UK‑wide surveillance study trying to identify neurological and neuropsychiatric complications identified patients with altered mental status, which fulfilled the clinical case definition for psychiatric diagnoses:10
21 of the 23 cases were new diagnoses.
10 had new onset psychosis.
6 had a neurocognitive syndrome.
4 had an affective disorder.
Author(s): Dr. John O’Brien, Life/Health Chief Medical Officer, London
Publication Date: Feb 2022
Publication Site: GenRe