Mental health issues tied to higher COVID-19 death risk

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COVID-19 patients with mental health disorders are more likely to die from the virus than patients without psychiatric or cognitive diagnoses, according to two new analyses.

One study, published earlier this month in The Lancet Psychiatry, reviewed previously reported data on nearly 1.5 million COVID-19 patients.

The risk of death was roughly 75% higher in patients with substance use disorders or intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders, and it was roughly doubled in those with psychotic or mood disorders. COVID-19 mortality risk was also linked with use of certain medications, such as antipsychotics, anxiety drugs, and antidepressants.

The other study, published on Tuesday in JAMA Psychiatry, analyzed data on more than 19,000 patients and found similar patterns. Dr. Bowen Chung of the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in either study, said patients with mental health disorders tend to have other risk factors as well, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease, some of which can be linked to their medications.

 “Antipsychotics in particular, have lots of metabolic effects, including obesity and high cholesterol,” Chung said, and anxiety drugs can affect breathing. These individuals “also tend to have lower incomes and to not have as good access to healthcare.”