Patients who contracted COVID-19 during the first wave of the pandemic were 1.67 times more likely to show clinically significant levels of anxiety after 13 months, according to a British study published in Scientific Reports.
The study was based on a survey of 3,077 UK adults, representing a cross-section of the general population. Approximately 9% of participants (268 respondent; 8.7%) reported COVID-19 at wave 1, 8.5% (234) reported COVID-19 at wave 2, and 9.1% (237) reported COVID-19 at wave 3. In total, 393 (12.8%) participants reported COVID-19 during waves 1, 2 or 3 (March through May 2020), the authors said.
Those who reported COVID-19 during wave 1 had elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression at 1, 3, 5, and 13 months follow-up.
"The current study also found that having a pre-existing mental health condition at the beginning of the pandemic was related to increased odds of contracting probable COVID infection over the following 13 months," the authors said.
The authors found that having a pre-existing mental health condition was associated with a 31% greater odds of having probable COVID-19 over the following 13 months (odds ratio, 1.31).
Several studies have shown that lockdowns and COVID-19 measures worsened mental health for many different groups in 2020, but this is one of the first studies to gauge how and if contracting COVID-19 early in the pandemic affected long-term mental health outcomes, the authors said.
In a press release, the authors said the work was important for general practitioners (GPs) who may be seeing patients more than a year after their initial infection.
"The findings highlight the importance for GPs and other healthcare professionals to be vigilant to these longer-lasting symptoms and to put in place treatments and support for mental health, as well as physical health, for patients who may have contracted COVID-19 infection," said co-lead author Daryl O'Connor, PhD, of the University of Leeds in a university press release.