Connect with us
  • Elysium


People with prior mental ill health hit harder by pandemic disruption

Research lays bare impact on jobs and healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic



People living with depression or anxiety pre-pandemic have been more severely affected by disruption to jobs and healthcare, a new study has revealed. 

The research found that those with higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms experienced a much greater likelihood of disruptions to both their professional and personal lives.

The study, which looked at data from 59,482 people, found that this group of people were 24 per cent more likely to have had delays to medical procedures, 12 per cent more likely to lose their job, and 33 per cent more likely to have had disruption to prescriptions or medication during the first eight to 10 months of the pandemic than those with average levels of anxiety and depression symptoms.

Lead author Dr Michael Green, of the University of Glasgow, said: “During the pandemic, many people lost their jobs or lost their income and faced disruptions to healthcare. Our study shows that this disruption was particularly likely to affect people with prior mental ill health.

“We need to ensure that healthcare and support for economic hardship are not overly difficult to access for these vulnerable people, especially as existing pandemic economic supports like furlough are removed.”

Professor Nishi Chaturvedi, of the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL, who co-leads the COVID-19 Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core study, said: “The anxiety and depression experienced by the participants of the study go beyond the mental ill health reported to GPs and healthcare services. 

“This is a largely hidden group of people vulnerable to potentially long-lasting health and socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic.”

Lead author Dr Giorgio Di Gessa, of the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Healthcare, said: “Policymakers should take these findings into account in the provision of future healthcare and economic support, as failing to address these disruptions risks widening health inequalities further. 

“Special care should be taken by pharmacists and primary care staff to ensure people with mental health difficulties do not miss appointments, procedures and prescriptions.

“It is also important to note that pre-pandemic psychological distress was generally more common among women, younger generations, ethnic minorities, and those with fewer qualifications, meaning the overall impact of disruption on these groups is larger.”

The work was conducted as part of the COVID-19 Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core study, led by UCL researchers and funded by UKRI. The study involved researchers at UCL, King’s College London, the University of Glasgow, the University of Leicester, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Bristol.

In each of the longitudinal studies, respondents answered questionnaires designed to assess mental health about three years before the pandemic on average. They later reported the disruptions they experienced between March and December last year.

The researchers compared disruptions faced by people whose responses showed “average” levels of anxiety and depression to disruptions affecting people with more anxiety and depression than average, regardless of whether they had a clinical diagnosis or were seeking treatment for a mental illness.

The research team looked at the disruptions of the pandemic in three areas: healthcare (medication access, procedures or surgeries, and appointments); economic activity (employment, income, or working hours); and housing (change of address or household composition). 

They found that people with prior mental ill health were more likely to face economic and healthcare disruption, but had no greater likelihood of housing disruption.


Long COVID symptoms ‘can last at least 12 months’



People experiencing Long COVID may have symptoms for at least 12 months after the initial COVID-19 infection, a new study has revealed. 

As a result, those living with Long COVID are being significantly and negatively impacted in terms of their cognition, ability to work, participation in physical activity, interaction with others, and overall quality of life for a greater period than many initially anticipated. 

The Mount Sinai study is one of the first to measure the actual impairment and impact of Long COVID, or Post-Acute COVID Syndrome (PACS), on patients, and detail factors that may exacerbate their symptoms. 

This work will help guide lawmakers and national and international health agencies to develop strategies and policies to support these patients during their lengthy recovery.

Its results must help shape policy around dealing with the “longer-term public health emergency” of Long COVID, the research team said. 

“It is imperative to understand the burden of this novel condition and develop targeted interventions to help patients participate in daily activities, as well as policies that will assist them with their disability and employment status,” says senior author Dr David Putrino, director of rehabilitation innovation for the Mount Sinai Health System. 

“This study is a concerning reminder of how severely debilitating PACS symptoms are, the toll they take on health and wellness, and the fact that, without active treatment, these symptoms appear to persist indefinitely.”

A team of researchers did a retrospective, observational study of 156 patients treated at Mount Sinai’s Center for Post-COVID Care between March 2020 and March 2021. 

The patients had previously had COVID-19 and had not yet been vaccinated at the time of the study. 

Patients filled out surveys on persistent symptoms and triggers of symptom exacerbation a median of 351 days from their first day of infection – patients received surveys after scheduling their first appointment and timestamped once submitted. 

They were asked detailed questions about fatigue, breathlessness, ability to complete moderate and vigorous intensity physical activity, cognitive function, health-related quality of life, anxiety, depression, disability, and their pre- and post-COVID-19 employment status.

The most common reported symptoms were fatigue (82 per cent of patients), followed by brain fog (67 per cent), headache (60 per cent), sleep disturbance (59 per cent), and dizziness (54 per cent). 

Researchers performed a more detailed evaluation of the severity of self-reported cognitive impairment and discovered that more than 60 per cent of PACS patients had some level of cognitive impairment (either mild, moderate or severe), with symptoms including diminished short-term memory, difficulty remembering names, and issues with decision-making and daily planning.

In total, 135 patients answered questions about their employment pre- and post-COVID-19, and the number of patients in full-time work (102) went down to 55.

Going further, the study noted factors that the patients said made their PACS symptoms worse. 

The biggest trigger was physical exertion (reported by 86 per cent of patients), followed by stress (69 per cent), dehydration (49 per cent), and weather changes (37 per cent).

“Many of the symptoms reported in this study have been measured, but for many this is the first time they have been objectively documented using well-validated patient-reported outcomes, and linked to changes in activities of daily living and quality of life,” explains Dr Putrino. 

“The long duration of these symptoms remind us that this is a problem that is not going away, and that we need to aggressively pursue policies that will better support and protect these patients in the long-term. 

“Future research should focus on more detailed monitoring of PACS symptoms—better understanding how and why they are happening will be crucial in developing targeted treatments.”

Continue Reading


Get the NR Times update