A new study from King’s College London found that symptoms of COVID-19 are associated with worse mental health and lower life satisfaction.
The study is part of the COVID-19 Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study and is published in The Lancet Psychiatry. The researchers, from Kings College London and University College London, supported by other UK institutions, focused on the impact of symptoms of COVID-19 infection on mental health and wellbeing.
The data was collected from 11 longitudinal studies between April 2020 and April 2021 and included 54,442 participants with and without self-reported COVID-19.
Mental health and lower life satisfaction levels
The researchers found that increases in psychological distress, depression, anxiety, and lower life satisfaction were associated with prior self-reported COVID-19. The associations with poorer mental health did not improve after initial symptoms of COVID-19, indicating the impact of infection long-term and the need for a longer follow-up process with medical professionals.
Self-reported symptoms of COVID-19 are consistently associated with psychological distress, regardless of whether participants had a positive test. The negative effects of COVID-19 were noted across different groups of people.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can affect impact mental health
The study suggests that the infection and symptoms of COVID-19 might have the most profound impact on older people aged 50 years and older who reported a stronger association with poorer mental health. This may reflect that older people are more likely to experience severe symptoms of COVID-19, greater worry around the infection, and increased risk of blood vessel or brain changes following infection. This is contrasting evidence compared to previous studies showing that women and adults aged 25-44 had the greatest adverse impacts.
Joint first author Dr Ellen Thompson from King’s College London said: “These findings suggest that there were prolonged mental health consequences of COVID-19 infection for some people at the beginning of this pandemic. Understanding why this is the case will be key to finding treatment strategies for those affected as well as preventing such effects in future pandemic waves.”
Senior author Prof Praveetha Patalay from University College London said: “This study brings together many of the UK’s longitudinal studies to provide a comprehensive overview of the impacts of COVID-19 infection on population mental health. Compared to most studies to date that have focussed on more severe and hospitalised cases, this study demonstrates the impact of infection during a pandemic on overall population mental health and wellbeing.”