A Manchester University study has found higher risks of COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation, and mortality in individuals with severe mental illness

man head in hands depression

Individuals with severe mental illness (SMI), including schizophrenia/psychosis, bipolar disorder (BD), and major depressive disorder (MDD), have increased risks of infection, hospitalisation, and mortality from COVID-19, according to a new study published in Molecular Psychiatry.

The study’s lead author, Dr Lamiece Hassan from the University of Manchester, said: ‘This is the most comprehensive study yet to examine COVID-19 outcomes in people with different types of severe mental illness in the UK.’

Researchers investigated the odds of COVID-19 infection, hospitalisation, and mortality among 447,296 individuals in the UK Biobank database. Of these, 44,856 had a diagnosis of SMI and 402,440 were non-SMI controls.

In the unadjusted model, the risk of COVID-19 infection was 1.61 times higher in individuals with schizophrenia/psychosis, 1.48 times higher in those with BD, and 1.47 times higher in those with MDD, compared to those without SMI (P<0.05 for all).

The unadjusted risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation was 3.47 times higher in individuals with schizophrenia/psychosis, 3.31 times higher in those with BD, and 2.08 times higher in those with MDD, compared to those without SMI (P<0.05 for all).

In terms of COVID-19 mortality, the unadjusted risks were 4.84, 3.76, and 1.99 times higher in individuals with schizophrenia/psychosis, BD, and MDD, respectively, than their non-SMI counterparts (P<0.05 for all).

After adjusting for demographic and clinical confounders, the risk of COVID-19 infection remained significant for MDD alone, whereas the risks for COVID-19 hospitalisations and mortality remained significant across all three groups.

The increased risks of worse COVID-19 outcomes among individuals with SMI were partly tied to factors such as male sex, older age, ethnic minority background, and certain respiratory and metabolic comorbidities.

One of the study’s co-authors, Dr Joe Firth from the University of Manchester, said: ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the poor physical health outcomes we see for people who experience severe mental illness. Clearly, there is an urgent need to provide enhanced care for this particularly high-risk group.’

The authors report no competing interests.

This article was originally published on Medscape, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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