Having a history of psychological distress can trigger prolonged covid, study says

Having a history of psychological distress can trigger prolonged covid, study says

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Signs of the disease can include breathing problems, mental confusion, chronic cough, changes in taste and smell, overwhelming fatigue, difficulty performing functions of daily living, and sleep problems that may last. months or even years after the infection clears the body. .

“We found that participants with two or more types of psychological distress prior to infection had a 50% increased risk of developing prolonged covid,” said study co-author Dr. Siwen Wang, a researcher in the Department of Nutrition at the School from Harvard T. H. Chan. Public. Health in Boston.

“Having higher levels of psychological distress prior to Covid infection also increased the risk of having long Covid by 50%,” Wang said. “These people also reported more symptoms seen in long Covid. »

Some may use the study results to support a hypothesis that post-Covid disease it’s psychosomatic, a common belief early in the pandemic, said Dr. Wesley Ely, a professor of medicine and critical care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He did not participate in the study.

Instead, the study’s message should be that people with existing psychological distress are closer to the “disaster” of prolonged Covid, said Ely, co-director of the Vanderbilt Center for Critical Illness, Brain Dysfunction and Survivorship.

“Imagine 10 people running a race and you give five people a head start,” Ely said. “These are the people who already had a mental health problem; they are closer to the unfortunate goal of becoming covid for a long time. »

The mind-body connection

The idea that mental anguish can negatively affect the body is not new. It’s also a two-way street: having a chronic illness is strongly associated with developing depression and other psychological disorders.

With common noninfectious disorders, such as heart disease, “depression, anxiety and emotional distress seem to play a role,” said Dr. Joseph Bienvenu, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of New York School of Medicine. the Johns Hopkins University. . in baltimore, in an email. The did not participate in the study.

Having a history of psychological distress can trigger prolonged covid, study says

People with major depression may develop blood pressure problems and be more likely to have a heart attack. Chronic depression, stress, and anxiety have been linked to insomnia, and poor quality sleep is one of the main culprits in the development of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other disorders.

And psychological distress has been shown to weaken the immune system, said study co-author Dr. Angela Roberts, an associate professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Stanford University in California.

“Your brain and your immune system are very closely interconnected,” Roberts said. “Studies have shown that when you’re depressed or anxious, your immune system doesn’t work as well against targets like viruses and bacteria. »

Some patients still suffer

To conduct the new study, the researchers worked with nearly 55,000 people with no history of Covid-19 who were enrolled in three large longitudinal studies: the Nurses’ Health Study II, the Nurses’ Health Study 3, and the Nurses’ Health Study 3. of Nurses 3. Grow today. Participants in these studies tend to be predominantly female and white, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to a larger population, according to the study.

Having a history of psychological distress can trigger prolonged covid, study says

Participants were asked about their mental health in April 2020, quite at the start of the pandemic. They continued to complete monthly mental health surveys for six months, then quarterly. After a year, the researchers narrowed the group of subjects to almost 3,200 people who had developed Covid-19 and met the study conditions.

“This study is particularly interesting because the participants’ baseline characteristics were assessed independently over time from their later COVID symptoms,” Johns Hopkins said. says Welcome.

Compared to people without mental anguish, those with depression and loneliness were 1.32 times more likely to develop prolonged covid symptoms. Participants who were highly concerned about the coronavirus — mostly people of color, women and asthmatics — were 1.37 times more likely to develop prolonged covid, the study found.

Anxiety was associated with increased risk, 1.42 times more likely, but people with higher levels of perceived stress were almost 50% more likely to develop post-Covid symptoms, said study co-author Wang.

All associations between psychological distress and prolonged Covid continued to be important even after the researchers adjusted for demographics, body weight, smoking, and a history of asthma, cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure or cholesterol.

Additionally, all types of psychological distress except loneliness were associated with an increased risk of not being able to perform activities of daily living due to extended periods of time. Symptoms of COVID-19.

Having a history of psychological distress can trigger prolonged covid, study says

While many long-standing covid cases are mild and resolve within months, other patients continue to suffer for an extended period of time. Some still haven’t regained their quality of life more than two years into the pandemic, according to Dr. Aaron Friedberg, an assistant clinical professor of internal medicine who works in the post-Covid recovery program at Wexner Medical Center in Washington. Ohio State University in Columbus. .

They can’t think, they can’t breathe. I have a person whose illness is so severe that he can barely get out of bed,” Friedberg told CNN in a previous interview. “I recently saw a person who is still not working due to Covid symptoms two years later. »

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