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The link between mental health and COVID-19

A masked woman talks to her doctor.

May 2, 2022—It's important to take care of your mental health. That may be even more true during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation, people who have mental health conditions are more likely to get COVID-19.

And they are more likely to get very sick from the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that the risk for severe COVID-19 is higher for people with conditions such as:

  • Alcohol use disorder.
  • Depression and other mood disorders.
  • Schizophrenia and related conditions.
  • Substance use disorder.

Breakthrough infections

According to a new study published by JAMA Open, people with mental health disorders may also be at higher risk of a breakthrough infection. That means they may be more likely to get COVID-19 even after being fully vaccinated.

Researchers used a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs database to look at the records of more than 260,000 people. All participants were fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Researchers compared people with at least one psychiatric condition to people who had not been diagnosed with a psychiatric condition.

People with a psychiatric disorder were 7% more likely to have a breakthrough infection of COVID-19 than people who did not have a disorder.

The risk was not the same for all mental health conditions. Here's a closer look at how some conditions affected the risk of a COVID-19 breakthrough infection.

  • Adjustment disorder: 18% higher.
  • Alcohol use disorder: 6% higher.
  • Anxiety disorder: 13% higher.
  • Major depressive disorder: 11% higher.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: 8% higher.
  • Psychotic disorder: 8% higher.
  • Substance use disorder: 18% higher.

The risk was lower when researchers controlled for medical conditions, obesity and smoking. Researchers still found that people with a psychiatric disorder had a higher risk of getting COVID-19 even after vaccination.

Get help for mental health

If you are living with a mental health condition, now is a great time to get help. There are many effective treatment options. Not sure if you need help? Consider talking to your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms for longer than two weeks:

  • Changes in appetite that affect your weight.
  • Trouble sleeping or concentrating on work or other activities.
  • Not feeling like getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Not being interested in things you usually like to do.
  • Feeling extremely sad, angry or worried all the time.
  • Thinking frequently about death or hurting yourself.

If you are considering suicide, get help right away. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (800.273.8255). Or text "HELLO" to 741741.

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