Mental health problems may lead to a higher risk of groundbreaking cases of COVID-19, the study finds

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Individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 diagnosed with certain psychiatric disorders were more at risk of contracting COVID-19, according to a new study published in Open JAMA network.

UC San Francisco researchers worked with researchers from the San Francisco VA Health Care System and reviewed data from 263,697 patients who had completed their vaccination regimen and had at least one test for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes l COVID-19 infection, according to the published report. The researchers said in the study publication that over half (51.4%) of study participants were diagnosed with at least one psychiatric diagnosis in the past five years, and nearly 15% had positive tests that showed a groundbreaking case of COVID-19.

Business woman sleeping closing the laptop while working during the pandemic.

Business woman sleeping closing the laptop while working during the pandemic.

Overall, the researchers found that participants with psychiatric disorders had a 3% increased risk of breakthrough COVID-19 infections in 2021 compared to those without a psychiatric history, according to the publication.

Investigators report that the risk was higher for people over the age of 65. According to the release, those in the 65+ age group who had substance abuse The problems had a 24% higher risk for a groundbreaking case and those with psychotic the disorders had a 23% higher risk. The report found that those with bipolar disorder were 16% more likely to contract a breakthrough infection, while those with an adaptation disorder had a 14% risk. Individuals with anxiety conditions were 12% more likely than those who did not have a psychiatric condition, the report said.


The study also noted that the younger cohort (those individuals under the age of 65) with a psychiatric disorder had an up to 11% higher risk of developing a breakthrough case of COVID-19, compared to those without a history. psychiatric.

In the younger group, the results showed participants with substance abuse I disturb they were 11% more likely to develop a breakthrough case, while participants with adaptation disorder had a 9% increased risk compared to peers without a psychiatric diagnosis. The Nu study also found that people under the age of 65 with anxiety and PTSD were 4% and 3% more likely to contract COVID-19, respectively.

Image of a nurse on an elderly patient.

Image of a nurse on an elderly patient.

The researchers stated that the increased risk of breakthrough cases in individuals with psychiatric disorders (3% to 16%) was comparable to the increased incidence of breakthrough infections seen in individuals with certain physical conditions (7% to 23%). %) such as cancer, cardiovascular and kidney disease pathologythe study states.


“Our findings indicate that people with psychiatric disorders may be a high-risk group for COVID-19 and that this group should be prioritized for booster vaccinations and other critical preventative efforts, including increased SARS-CoV screening. -2, public health campaigns or COVID-19 discussions during clinical care, “the researchers said in the published study.

A woman travels by public transport wearing a mask to protect herself from COVID-19.

Kristen Nishimi, PhD, of the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and the San Francisco VA Health Care System, explained in the statement that breakthrough cases in the older cohort could be caused by a “reduced immunological response to the vaccine that has been associated with some disorders. psychiatric, which may be more consistent in the elderly “. Investigators also said the findings could be related to risky behaviors that are often associated with certain conditions, according to the release.

Nishimiwho is the first author of the study, also suggested in the release that another possible explanation for the findings is that older adults with psychiatric disorders typically receive frequent in-person treatments and said this “could increase their interactions with the system. sanitary. ”

Aoife O’DonovanPhD, delUCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and theSan Francisco VA Health Systemstated in the release, “Our research suggests that the rise in breakthrough infections in people with psychiatric disorders cannot be fully explained by socio-demographic factors or pre-existing conditions.”

O’Donovan, who is the senior author of the study, also said: “It is possible that immunity after vaccination decreases more rapidly or more strongly for people with psychiatric disorders and / or they may have less protection than new ones. variants, “according to the release.


O’Donovan said it’s important to consider mental health alongside other risk factors and that some patients should be prioritized for recall and other important preventative efforts, according to the release.