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Reaction to study indicating that psychological distress prior to covid-19 infection increases risk of persistent covid

Psychological distress, including depression, anxiety, worry, perceived stress and loneliness, prior to covid-19 infection was associated with an increased risk of persistent covid, according to research published in JAMA Psychiatry.

07/09/2022 - 17:00 CEST
Expert reactions

Eduard Vieta - long covid EN

Eduard Vieta

Researcher of the Centre for Biomedical Research in Mental Health Network (CIBERSAM). Head of the Psychiatry and Psychology Department at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona and lecturer at the University of Barcelona

Science Media Centre Spain

The article is based on an interesting study, which supports the well-known idea that infectious pathologies and their sequelae are influenced by the previous state of the subjects. In this sense, psychological stress, manifested mainly in the form of anxiety or depressive symptoms, is a risk factor for multiple medical conditions and persistent covid is no exception. However, the very definition of persistent covid is controversial - it is currently being worked on at the Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Salud Mental (CIBERSAM) in a collaborative effort of elite researchers from various fields, including mental health.

Thus, a certain tautology/obviousness cannot be ruled out in that the presence of depressive symptoms prior to covid are predictors of very similar and persistent symptoms after infection. Although the authors attempt to control for this effect, the presence of fatigue and concentration difficulties, cardinal symptoms of persistent covid, are also very common in depression. In summary, the work is interesting but has limitations and despite these it seems logical to think that previous psychological stress is associated with an increased risk of symptoms, especially neuropsychiatric symptoms, persisting after infection.

The author has not responded to our request to declare conflicts of interest
Associations of Depression, Anxiety, Worry, Perceived Stress, and Loneliness Prior to Infection With Risk of Post COVID-19 Conditions
  • Research article
  • Peer reviewed
  • Observational study
  • People
JAMA Psychiatry
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Siwen Wang et al. 

Study types:
  • Research article
  • Peer reviewed
  • Observational study
  • People
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