In a new study from the University of Nottingham, researchers found that people who experienced increased stress, anxiety and depression at the start of the pandemic, were at greater risk of getting COVID-19.
They found that greater psychological distress during the early phase of the pandemic was strongly linked to participants later reporting SARS-CoV-2 infection, a greater number of symptoms and also more severe symptoms.
Previous work has shown a clear relationship between distress and the development of viral infections indicating a vulnerability.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a well-documented deterioration in psychological wellbeing and increased social isolation.
The purpose of this study was to find out whether people who experienced these difficulties during the pandemic were more at risk of contracting and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
The team conducted an observational study of nearly 1,100 adults, who completed surveys during April 2020 and self-reported incidence of COVID-19 infection and symptom experience across the pandemic through to December 2020.
The results showed that COVID-19 infection and symptoms were more common among those experiencing higher psychological distress.
The data suggest that increased stress, anxiety and depression are not only consequences of living with the pandemic, but may also be factors that increase our risk of getting SARS-CoV-2 too.
The team says further work is now needed to determine whether and how public health policy should change to accommodate the fact that the most distressed people in our communities appear to be at the greatest risk of COVID-19 infection.
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The study is published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine. One author of the study is Professor Kavita Vedhara.
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