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New Study Suggests Significant Rate of PTSD Among COVID-19 Survivors

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The effects of severe COVID-19 infection may leave some survivors dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

• What is PTSD?

A study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry looked at 381 patients who went to the emergency room for treatment, most of whom were then hospitalized.  The data showed that 30.2% of patients went on to develop PTSD while an additional 17.3% showed signs of a depressive episode and 7% had anxiety. The average age of patients in this study was 55.

The results are in line with previous analyses into other coronavirus pandemics that found close to the same incidence of PTSD (32.2%). According to the published report, the rate of PTSD development was higher amongst women, people with a history of psychiatric disorders, and delirium during acute illness. Researchers also noted that those who had PTSD were more likely to report lasting COVID-19 symptoms after recovery.

More than 110 million people worldwide have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and many scientists have started to look at the potential mental health impacts of the pandemic. Previous studies have shown that up to one in five people who overcome COVID-19 develop psychiatric symptoms. As the pandemic unfolds, stringent lockdowns and lost connections have even increased anxiety and depression among those who have not been infected.

Other serious or chronic illnesses and hospitalization can lead to increased rates of PTSD, though slightly lower than what the current study found for COVID-19. One paper, for example, found that anywhere from 12-25% of those who survive a medical event that’s perceived to be life-threatening with develop PTSD.

Scientists said more research is needed to truly weigh the impact of the pandemic on both the general public and those who are infected. In this particular study, researchers explained potential limitations included a small sample size and the fact that PTSD symptoms may vary over time.

You can learn more about the study here and the mental health impacts from the pandemic here.

Header image via nadia_bormotova/Getty Images

Originally published: February 19, 2021
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