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Loneliness, depression and being worried increase the odds of hospitalization in Covid-positive patients, according to a study reported in the journal Psychological Medicine.1
More than 54,000 participants from the Nurses Health Study II (NHSII), Nurses Health Study 3 (NHS3) and the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) were screened for the present study from April 2020 through April 2021. None of the study subjects were currently Covid-positive or had Covid-19 earlier. Researchers aimed to discover any association between psychological distress before testing positive and the risk of hospitalization.
During follow-up, a total of 3663 participants, with mean age 55 years, tested positive for Covid-19. Those who had had chronic depression before the onset of the pandemic were at 72% higher risk of being hospitalized due to Covid-19 with relative risk of 1.72. Participants with probable depression were at 81% higher risk (RR 1.81) of being hospitalized. Loneliness and being very worried about Covid were the other factors that increased the risk of Covid hospitalizations with relative risks of 1.81 and 1.79, respectively. No such association was noted for anxiety and stress.
This study reiterates the mental health impact of the pandemic by demonstrating a link between depression, loneliness and worry about the pandemic and high risk of hospitalization due to Covid-19. It further suggests that psychological factors may also increase the risk of Covid-related hospitalization almost to the same extent as risk factors such as hypertension, hypercholesterolemia that are well-known to increase the severity of the infection. Covid-19 patients must also be evaluated for psychological distress to preempt hospitalization risk. The authors have however called for further study to find out if treating the psychological factors could reduce the disease severity.
- Wang S, et al. Depression, worry, and loneliness are associated with subsequent risk of hospitalization for COVID-19: a prospective study. Psychol Med. 2022 May 19:1-10. doi: 10.1017/S0033291722000691