By Emilio Parodi
MILAN (Reuters) - COVID-19 survivors suffer higher rates of psychiatric disorders including post-traumatic stress (PTSD), anxiety, insomnia and depression, according to a study conducted by San Raffaele hospital in Milan on Monday.
The survey showed that more than half of the 402 patients monitored after being treated for the virus experienced at least one of these disorders in proportion to the severity of the inflammation during the disease.
The patients - 265 men and 137 women - were examined at a one-month follow-up after hospital treatment.
"It was immediately clear that the inflammation caused by the disease could also have repercussions at the psychiatric level," said professor Francesco Benedetti, group leader of the Research Unit in Psychiatry and Clinical Psychobiology at San Raffaele, in a statement.
The report was published on Monday in the scientific journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.
Based on clinical interviews and self-assessment questionnaires, physicians found PTSD in 28% of cases, depression in 31%, anxiety in 42% of patients and insomnia in 40%, and finally obsessive-compulsive symptoms in 20%.
The study shows that women in particular suffered the most from anxiety and depression, despite the lower severity of the infection, the statement said.
"We hypothesise that this may be due to the different functioning of the immune system," said Professor Benedetti.
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Finally, less serious psychiatric repercussions have been found in hospitalised patients than in outpatients.
The psychiatric consequences of COVID-19 can be caused both by the immune response to the virus itself and by psychological stress factors such as stigma, social isolation and worries about infecting others, it said.
The results will underscore growing concerns about potential debilitating health complications for survivors of the disease.
Earlier this month, scientists warned of a potential wave of coronavirus-related brain damage in people who have had the disease.
(Reporting by Emilio Parodi; Editing by Josephine Mason and David Gregorio)