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Psychological Distress May Increase Risk for COVID-19 Hospitalization

FRIDAY, May 20, 2022 -- For patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, psychological distress prior to the diagnosis is associated with hospitalization for COVID-19, according to a study published online May 19 in Psychological Medicine.

Siwen Wang, M.D., from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues examined the associations between distress prior to SARS-CoV-2 infection and the subsequent risk for hospitalization. A total of 54,781 participants from three ongoing cohort studies who reported no current or prior SARS-CoV-2 infection at baseline were followed from April 2020 (baseline) to April 2021.

During follow-up, 3,663 participants reported a positive SARS-CoV-2 test. The researchers found that after adjustment for demographic factors and health care worker status, among these participants, chronic depression prior to the pandemic and probable depression, being very worried about COVID-19, and loneliness reported at baseline were each associated with subsequent COVID-19 hospitalization. No associations were seen for anxiety and perceived stress with hospitalization. Depression, worry about COVID-19, and loneliness were as strongly associated with hospitalization as established risk factors for COVID-19 severity (high cholesterol and hypertension).

"Our findings suggest the need to consider psychological health in addition to physical health as risk factors of severe COVID-19," the authors write. "Future research should examine whether reducing distress, in addition to other medical interventions, improves outcomes in patients with SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases."

One author disclosed financial ties to Gilead Pharmaceuticals.

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