New study warns Covid-19 could increase your risk of insomnia, depression and anxiety

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Scientists from the University of Oxford have warned that Covid-19 could also increase the risk of developing disorders including anxiety, depression and insomnia.

The past few months have already proved unimaginably challenging for families up and down the country. From worrying about where you can get a Covid-19 test (opens in new tab), to what the symptoms are for children (opens in new tab), the anxiety caused by the pandemic is widespread.

Now this news from Oxford seems to suggest things could be even more worrying than we first thought.

Scientists from the University of Oxford have analysed electronic health records of 69 million people in the US. Their study included over 62,000 Covid-19 patients. 

What did they discover?

In the three months following a positive Covid-19 test, one in five patients got a diagnosis of anxiety (opens in new tab), insomnia or depression for the first time. 

The researchers suggest that this is almost twice as likely as for non Covid-19 sufferers. 

And that’s not all. Covid-19 was also revealed to be linked with new psychiatric diagnosis in those with a history of psychiatric problems. People with pre-existing psychiatric disorders were also found to be 65% more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19 that those without. 

The leader of this new study, Professor Paul Harrison has spoken out about the results. He reportedly said that, “People have been worried that COVID-19 survivors will be at greater risk of mental health problems."

Covid-19 scientific research

The professor went on to explain that their findings "in a large and detailed study show this to be likely.”

Speaking of how medical services would be required to respond, he suggested that: “Services need to be ready to provide care". He also stated this was even more crucial as the results "are likely to be underestimates of the actual number of cases."

"We urgently need research to investigate the causes and identify new treatments.” 

Whilst the reason for the link between Covid-19 and psychiatric disorders currently remains unclear, scientists have been speculating. 

Some suggest that the increased Covid-19 risk to patients with existing psychiatric disorders could be linked to the drugs prescribed to treat them. Their physical health could also be a factor.  

Dr Michael Bloomfield, from University College London, has been reported as giving his reasoning for the link. He suggests it was probably due to "a combination" of "psychological stressors". These stressors are those associated with "this particular pandemic and the physical effects of the illness".

He added that: ‘further work is needed to understand this fully’. This is a sentiment shared by Jo Daniels from the University of Bath.

She has been recorded as suggesting further research was needed before coming to any conclusions. "We should be aware that poorer psychological outcomes are common in those who experience physical health problems of any nature," she explained. 

Jo added that, "Being acutely or chronically unwell is simply a difficult experience."

Now looking ahead, we await further research on the exact nature of the link these findings revealed.