OSU Researcher’s Work Links COVID Infection To Risk Of Anxiety Disorders

CORVALLIS, Ore. — An Oregon State University researcher worked on a nationally published study, that shows people who get COVID-19, have a higher risk of anxiety disorders.  O.S.U. Ph.D. student, and Oregon native Lauren Chan co-authored the study.

“I assisted particularly with trying to get our data structure down to basically the patients we had interest in,” Chan told KXL’s Annette Newell.

It shows that people have about 25% more psychiatric disorders in the four months after a COVID-19 infection, than patients with other types of respiratory infections.  Chan says the researchers looked at more than 46,600 COVID-19 patients, comparing them to people with other types of infections.

Chan is a nutrition student, in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences.  She says this should encourage people to seek mental health care if they notice something’s off, after getting COVID-19.

“Try and be aware of whether or not you’re feeling more anxieties. Or if the world seems like you’re approaching it a little bit differently and kind of your thoughts are changing.”

The findings support previous research on psychiatric disorders among post-COVID patients.

“The most important thing from this is I’m glad it’s getting attention so that it helps people, hopefully.  It helps patients to identify and hopefully go seek care.  And I hope that it helps providers to remind themselves that maybe they need to check in with their patients post-COVID.”

For the study in World Psychiatry, researchers used data from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative. They matched 46,610 COVID-19 positive individuals with patients with a different respiratory infection.

They looked at psychiatric diagnoses for two time periods.  They were from 21 to 120 days after patients’ COVID diagnosis, and from 120 to 365 days after diagnosis, limited to patients with no previous mental illness.

Researchers found that COVID patients had a 3.8% rate of developing a psychiatric disorder compared with 3.0% for other respiratory infections. The difference amounts to about a 25% increased risk for anxiety disorders. 

An increase in the amount of people seeking psychiatric care, will strain a system that’s already stretched, Chan said.

 “We already had struggles in trying to identify a professional to work with.  We’re going to keep having difficulties getting people the care they need,” she said. “If we do see this kind of increase in post-COVID psychiatric conditions, and people are recognizing them and trying to seek care, it poses some concern.”

She plans to help on a follow-up study on long COVID-19 and mental illness.