people diagnosed with a psychiatric condition were more likely to contract covid-19 after being fully vaccinated, according to a new study.
Posted this month in never Open Network, the study used health records of more than 260,000 people from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
The researchers found that the correlation was much stronger in people 65 and older. This could be the result of decades of struggling with having a psychiatric condition and the circumstances that can lead to psychiatric conditions, hitting the immune system.
“There is a lot of evidence to suggest that chronic stress, traumatic stress and psychiatric conditions can actually accelerate cellular aging,” Aoife O’Donovan, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco and one of the authors of the study. study says Reverse. “It puts you at risk of looking biologically older and for your immune system, in particular, to function like the immune system of someone older than you, and you certainly see that in patients with psychiatric disorders.”
What’s new – People with any psychiatric diagnosis were 3.7 percent more likely to develop an advanced Covid-19 infection, the researchers found. This was after the researchers adjusted the calculations to account for the most common relevant factors in AS patients.
Among types of diagnoses, nonalcoholic substance abuse problems had the highest correlation with breakthrough cases, increasing the risk by 16 percent. This was not a surprise, says O’Donovan. Addiction causes people to increase risky behaviors, and the pandemic created an environment where everything from hugging to eating in a restaurant was risky behavior.
Then there were adjustment disorders, those in which someone feels unusual stress or sadness in response to a life event, linked to a 13 percent increased risk, followed by anxiety conditions (8 percent), disorder bipolar (seven percent), alcohol use disorder (five percent), depression (five percent), and post-traumatic stress disorder (three percent).
There was a big difference when the results were split between subjects aged 65 and over. Overall, people over the age of 65 who had a psychiatric diagnosis were 5% more likely to have advanced COVID-19 infection than others their age. The risk skyrocketed for every condition, more than double for PTSD and rising sevenfold for people with bipolar.
For those younger than 65 years, the association with depression, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and alcohol use disorders was reduced to the point of being statistically insignificant.
People under the age of 65 with psychotic conditions, such as schizophrenia, that involve a break with reality, were less odds of contracting Covid-19 after vaccination, which O’Donovan attributes to social isolation. This echoes an Israeli study of people with schizophrenia; they were less likely to contract Covid-19 overall. The authors of that study also partially attributed those results to social isolation.
But for those over 65, psychotic conditions were highly correlated with the risk of advanced infection, increasing the risk by 26 percent.
The paper theorizes that “vulnerabilities associated with psychiatric disorders may interact with vulnerabilities associated with older age to confer increased risk of incident emergent infection.”
How they did it – The researchers used the records of 263,697 fully vaccinated VA patients, 51 percent of whom had at least one psychiatric diagnosis. About 15 percent experienced advanced infection.
Using data exclusively from the VA was not ideal, says O’Donovan. This group is not representative of the entire US population. People who come to the VA are more likely to be from a lower socioeconomic status, have multiple medical conditions, and live in a rural area. They are also generally older and almost all men.
However, “the VA did a very good job of gathering all this information and putting it out quickly,” she says. Without that kind of real-time record-keeping, she says, it would be incredibly difficult to get that much information about a recent phenomenon (“the advancement of Covid-19” is a concept that didn’t exist 16 months ago).
And with so much data, researchers can make adjustments to lessen the effect of factors that would influence the results.
The findings “are unlikely to be specific to Covid-19”
Another shortcoming: The VA generally classifies patients into two age categories: under 65 and over 65, ubiquitous in government records because 65 is the starting point for Social Security and Medicare. This meant that it was impossible to see when the increased risk of advanced infection for people with psychiatric conditions really begins.
“We’d know more if we had 10-year tranches,” says O’Donovan.
Why does it matter? The study is another piece of research indicating that psychiatric conditions affect the immune system, a finding that could be important for more than just today’s topic.
The findings “are unlikely to be specific to Covid-19,” O’Donovan says, “but are much more likely to generalize to other infections.” One obvious issue is flu risk and flu prevention.”
These findings provide reason to consider mental health when developing responses to COVID-19 and other infectious disease outbreaks.
“This study adds to a body of literature that tells us that patients with psychiatric disorders may well be, and appear to be, a vulnerable population in this pandemic that may need targeted prevention efforts,” says O’Donovan. “We may need to focus on integrating covid prevention into mental health care and also integrating mental health care into our covid prevention strategies because the two are so intertwined.”
Whats Next – O’Donovan would like to embark on a project investigating the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines in people with psychiatric conditions, which could indicate a need for additional boosters.