Two years after COVID infection, survivors still have higher risks of brain and mental diseases

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In a study from the University of Oxford and elsewhere, scientists found an increased risk of some brain and mental disorders remains two years after COVID-19 infection.

In the study, the team examined neurological and psychiatric diagnoses in over 1.25 million people following diagnosed COVID-19 infection.

The study reports on 14 neurological and psychiatric diagnoses over a 2-year period and compares their frequency with a matched group of people recovering from other respiratory infections.

It also reports data in children and older adults separately and compares data across three waves of the pandemic.

The team found many of the disorders are more common after COVID-19.

Notably, the increased risk of anxiety and depression subsides within two months of COVID-19 and, over the whole 2-year period, is no more likely to occur than after other respiratory infections.

In contrast, diagnoses of many neurological disorders (such as dementia and seizures), as well as psychotic disorders and ‘brain fog,’ continue to be made more often after COVID-19 throughout the two years.

The team also found results in children (under 18) showed similarities and differences to adults.

The likelihood of most diagnoses after COVID-19 was lower than in adults, and they were not at greater risk of anxiety or depression than children who had other respiratory infections.

However, like adults, children recovering from COVID-19 were more likely to be diagnosed with some conditions, including seizures and psychotic disorders.

More neurological and psychiatric disorders were seen during the delta variant wave than with the prior alpha variant. The omicron wave is linked to similar neurological and psychiatric risks as delta.

The team says it is good news that the excess of depression and anxiety diagnoses after COVID-19 is short-lived and that it is not found in children.

However, it is worrying that some other disorders, such as dementia and seizures, continue to be more likely diagnosed after COVID-19, even two years later.

It also appears that omicron, although less severe in acute illness, is followed by comparable rates of these diagnoses.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about why smokers have a lower risk of COVID-19, and vitamin D can be a cheap COVID-19 treatment.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about drug that can block multiple COVID-19 variants, and results showing aspirin, common anti-inflammatory drugs may prevent COVID-19 deaths.

The study was conducted by Professor Paul Harrison et al and published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

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