Monday, March 15, 2021

More Than Half of COVID-19 Patients Report Depressive Symptoms Months Later, Study Finds

A significant number of adults who become infected with COVID-19 may report symptoms of depression months later, according to a report in JAMA Network Open.

Roy Perlis, M.D., M.Sc., of Massachusetts General Hospital and colleagues analyzed data collected from U.S. adults who participated in an internet-based survey conducted by Qualtrics. Of 82,319 respondents who completed the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) that was part of this survey, the researchers identified 3,904 adults who had previously been diagnosed with COVID-19. The respondents were asked to indicate their overall severity of illness (not at all severe, not too severe, somewhat severe, or very severe) as well as the presence or absence of specific COVID-19 symptoms.

The respondents completed the survey an average of four months after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Overall, 52.4% (2,046) met the criteria for moderate or greater symptoms of major depression (PHQ-9 score of 10 or more). The odds of reporting depressive symptoms following a diagnosis of COVID-19 were higher among men, younger people, and those who reported more severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Additional analysis revealed that headaches were the only COVID-19 symptom associated with an increased risk of future depression: People who experienced headaches from COVID-19 were 33% more likely to report symptoms of depression than those who had not experienced headaches.

“[W]e cannot attribute these symptoms to new onset of depression; individuals with acute infection could be less likely to recover from prior depressive episodes or those with preexisting depressive symptoms could have greater risk of contracting COVID-19,” Perlis and colleagues cautioned.

“Nevertheless, our results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting the importance of considering potential neuropsychiatric sequelae of COVID-19 infection. Our results also suggest the importance of considering strategies that might mitigate the elevated risk of depressive symptoms following acute infection,” they concluded.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Patients With MH Disorders Found More Susceptible to COVID-19, Death.”

(Image: iStock/BlackJack3D)

Don't miss out! To learn about newly posted articles in Psychiatric News, please sign up here.


The content of Psychiatric News does not necessarily reflect the views of APA or the editors. Unless so stated, neither Psychiatric News nor APA guarantees, warrants, or endorses information or advertising in this newspaper. Clinical opinions are not peer reviewed and thus should be independently verified.