A new study reveals that the mental disorder, Schizophrenia, could actually be one of the highest risk factors for dying from COVID-19 infection.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have known that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are at high risk of severe illness and complications if they catch the infection. Medical conditions like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes significantly ups the risks of dying from COVID-19. But the risk for patients of mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia has been left outside the purview of most studies. Also Read – COVID-19 Live Updates: Cases in India surge to 10,720,048 while death toll reaches 1,54,010

In light of this, it comes as a surprise that a new study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, has revealed that the mental disorder, Schizophrenia, could actually be one of the highest risk factors for dying from the novel coronavirus infection, second only to age. This is the first study to establish a link between mental illness and the risk of dying from COVID-19 though a few earlier studies had said that people with this condition had a higher risk of becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2. Also Read – Male fertility: Severe COVID-19 infection may damage sperm, harm reproductive potential of men

Mental Disorder And COVID-19

In this study, researchers from NYU School of Medicine analysed the health records from 260 outpatient clinics and four hospitals across New York City, based on data published by the New York University electronic health record. Of the 26,540 patients tested, 7,348 were positive for COVID-19 between March 3 and May 31. The researchers formed three cohorts of patients with a reported psychiatric disorder — schizophrenia spectrum, mood disorder, and anxiety disorder. They then compared them with COVID-19 patients who weren’t diagnosed with any psychiatric disorder after adjusting for sex, age, race, and known risk factors like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, chronic kidney disease, smoking and cancer.

Schizophrenia Ups Your Risk Of Death By About 2.7 Times

Researchers saw that out of more than 7,000 adults who tested positive for the coronavirus during that time, 75 had a history of schizophrenia, 564 of mood disorder, and 360 of an anxiety disorder. In total, 864 of the COVID-19 patients died or were discharged to a hospice within 45 days of their diagnosis. But there was no association between anxiety or mood disorders and death from COVID-19. People with schizophrenia were about 2.7 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than people without that mental disorder making this the second-highest risk factor after age.

Poor Self-Care, Impaired Judgement Ups Risk

Schizophrenia is a mental condition that causes distortions in thinking and perception in patients. People suffering from schizophrenia also have shortened life expectancies by as much as 20 years, on average, and many die earlier from pneumonia and viral illnesses. To prevent the transmission of COVID-19, it is important to maintain respiratory and contact isolation. But it is difficult for schizophrenia patients to follow adequate hygiene practices. This increases vulnerability to respiratory diseases. impaired judgement and poor self-care also contribute to the problem.

Age Remains The Highest Risk Factor

Researchers saw that patients between the age of 45 and 54 years were around 3.9 times more likely to die than their younger counterparts and this risk doubled every 10 years of age after 54. This is regardless of whether they had a mental disorder. Patients with heart failure or diabetes had 1.65 times and 1.28 times higher risk of dying, respectively.

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