November 8, 2021

Risk of PTSD, anxiety, loneliness after COVID-19 hospitalization

Dr. Joanna Spencer-Segal's research finds COVID-19 associated with mental health problems after discharge, with majority not recognizing significant symptoms as a concern.

 

 

COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the body from the lungs and heart to the kidneys and liver. But those that survive hospitalization from the contagion often go home with more than pneumonia or an increased risk of blood clots.

According to research in General Hospital Psychiatrythose that were hospitalized from COVID-19 illness and later discharged during the height of the pandemic between April and June 2020 experienced higher rates of post-traumatic stress, anxiety and loneliness, compared to those discharged during the same time not due to COVID-19.

Of the 178 patients who participated in several survey methods, 64% had COVID-19. These patients were more likely to be Black and be treated in an intensive care unit with longer length of stay. Their survey methods included a Memory Impairment Screen-Telephone, Patient Health Questionnaire, General Anxiety Disorder-7, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist – the 2 item version and 2 loneliness items from the UCLA Three-Item Loneliness Scale.

COVID-19 patients had especially high rates of positive screens for PTSD (25%) compared to patients hospitalized with other diagnoses but similar symptom presentation (25% vs. 7%). COVID-19 was independently associated with more post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and loneliness after controlling for age, sex, length of stay and any pre-existing medical or psychiatric diagnoses.

“I am interested in how memories during a difficult experience are formed and how they influence long-term vulnerability,” said lead author Joanna Spencer-Segal, M.D., Ph.D., a neuroscientist and endocrinologist at University of Michigan Health. “How do patients form memories? How much does their emotional state influence this process? COVID-19 patients, especially those who have long respiratory stays, may have traumatic memories associated with that experience.”