Research Review Finds Large Number of COVID-19 Survivors Will Experience Cognitive Complications

March 11, 2021
Jill Murphy, Associate Editor

A recent research review found that a large proportion of COVID-19 survivors will be affected by neuropsychiatric and cognitive complications.

A recent research review found that a large proportion of COVID-19 survivors will be affected by neuropsychiatric and cognitive complications, according to a press release.

Psychologists at Oxford Brookes University and a psychiatrist from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust evaluated published research papers in order to understand more about the possible effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the brain, and the extent to which people can expect to experience short- and long-term mental health issues.

The study found that in the short term, a wide range of neuropsychiatric problems were reported. One of the examined studies saw 95% of clinically stable COVID-19 patients had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other studies found between 17% and 42% of patients experienced affective disorders, such as depression, according to the study authors.

The main short-term cognitive problems were found to be impaired attention, which was reported by 45% of patients, and impaired memory, occurring between 13% and 28% of patients. In the long-term, neuropsychiatric problems were mostly affective disorders and fatigue, as well as impaired attention (44%) and memory (between 28% and 50% of patients).

"Understanding the neuropsychiatric and cognitive consequences of COVID-19 is important as millions of people have been affected by the virus, and many cases go undetected,” said Sanjay Kumar, MD, senior lecturer in Psychology at Oxford Brookes University, in a press release. “These conditions affect people's capacity to work effectively, drive, manage finances, make informed decisions and participate in daily family activities.”

Other academics note that there is likely to be an increase in patients with psychiatric and cognitive problems who were otherwise healthy prior to COVID-19 infection.

"Detailed cognitive evaluation and robust monitoring of patients should be considered in order to detect new neurological cases," Kumar said in a press release. "This will also enable health care providers to plan adequate health care and resources and improve the quality of life for many COVID-19 survivors.”

Tina Malhotra, MD, consultant psychiatrist working in Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, added that they are already seeing the impact of COVID-19 on mental health.

“Patients are presenting with Long COVID syndrome which includes fatigue, cognitive problems and a range of psychiatric problems,” Malhorta said in a press release. "It is estimated that these problems are experienced by 1 in 5 people who have had COVID. Management of such patients in long-covid clinics should involve a multidisciplinary team including psychiatrists.”

REFERENCE

Large number of COVID-19 survivors will experience cognitive complications. EurekAlert! https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/obu-lno030421.php. Published March 4, 2021. Accessed March 9, 2021.