A psychiatric diagnosis for patients hospitalized with COVID-19 is linked to a significantly increased risk for death, new research shows.
Investigators found that patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and who had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder had a 50% increased risk for a COVID-related death in comparison with COVID-19 patients who had not received a psychiatric diagnosis.
“Pay attention and potentially address/treat a prior psychiatric diagnosis if a patient is hospitalized for COVID-19, as this risk factor can impact the patient’s outcome – death – while in the hospital,” lead investigator Luming Li, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and associate medical director of quality improvement, Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital, New Haven, Conn., said in an interview.
The study wasSept. 30 in JAMA Network Open.
“We were interested to learn more about the impact of psychiatric diagnoses on COVID-19 mortality, as prior large cohort studies included neurological and other medical conditions but did not assess for a priori psychiatric diagnoses,” said Dr. Li.
“We know from the literature that prior psychiatric diagnoses can have a negative impact on the outcomes of medical conditions, and therefore we tested our hypothesis on a cohort of patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19,” she added.
To investigate, the researchers analyzed data on 1,685 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between Feb. 15 and April 25, 2020, and whose cases were followed to May 27, 2020. The patients (mean age, 65.2 years; 52.6% men) were drawn from the Yale New Haven Health System.
The median follow-up period was 8 days (interquartile range, 4-16 days) .
Of these patients, 28% had received a psychiatric diagnosis prior to hospitalization.(i.e., cancer, cerebrovascular disease, , diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, , and/or HIV).
Psychiatric diagnoses were defined in accordance with ICD codes that included mental and behavioral health,, and self-injury.
Vulnerability to stress
In the unadjusted model, the risk for COVID-19–related hospital death was greater for those who had received any psychiatric diagnosis, compared with those had not (hazard ratio, 2.3; 95% CI, 1.8-2.9; P < .001).
In the adjusted model that controlled for demographic characteristics, other medical comorbidities, and hospital location, the mortality risk somewhat decreased but still remained significantly higher (HR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.1-1.9; P = .003).
Dr. Li noted a number of factors that might account for the higher mortality rate among psychiatric patients who had COVID-19 in comparison with COVD-19 patients who did not have a psychiatric disorder. These included “potential inflammatory and stress responses that the body experiences related to prior psychiatric conditions,” she said.
Having been previously diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder may also “reflect existing neurochemical differences, compared to those who do not have a prior psychiatric diagnosis, [and] these differences may make the population with the prior psychiatric diagnosis more vulnerable to respond to an acute stressor such as COVID-19,” she said.