Last reviewed 12 April 2021

The largest study yet conducted into the link between Covid-19 and mental health problems has revealed that about one third of Covid survivors have also received a neurological or psychiatric diagnosis within six months of infection.

The observational study of more than 230,000 patient health records has been published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

Dr Max Taquet, from the University of Oxford, a co-author of the study, said: “Our results indicate that brain diseases and psychiatric disorders are more common after Covid-19 than after flu or other respiratory infections, even when patients are matched for other risk factors.”

For 13% of people in the study, it was their first recorded neurological or psychiatric diagnosis, researchers found.

The most common issues were anxiety disorders (in 17% of patients), mood disorders (14%), substance misuse disorders (7%) and insomnia (5%).

However, the incidence of neurological outcomes was lower: brain haemorrhage (0.6%), ischaemic stroke (2.1%) and dementia (0.7%).

The study found that risks of either outcomes were greatest in patients who had severe Covid-19. A neurological or psychiatric diagnosis occurred in 38% of those who had been admitted to hospital and 46% of those taken into intensive care.

Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: “This study highlights the urgency of accelerating the Government’s programme to improve mental health services, to meet what could be a significant increase in the number of people needing support and treatment in the coming months.”

The findings suggest large numbers of people with a previous Covid infection, including those who had not been hospitalised, may develop depression or other mood or anxiety disorders as a consequence, she went on.