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January 10, 2022

People with Mood Disorders at High Risk for COVID-19, CDC Says

People with Mood Disorders at High Risk for COVID-19, CDC Says

Mood disorders are now listed alongside cancer, heart disease, diabetes, dementia and other chronic health issues as conditions that place people at high risk for severe COVID-19.

On October 14, health officials added “mental health conditions” to the long and growing “high risk” list. The CDC warns that people with mood disorders, including depression and schizophrenia spectrum disorders, who become infected are more likely to become seriously ill and need to be hospitalized.

The change serves as a reminder for those with mood disorders to take all possible preventive steps to protect themselves from COVID-19, including getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, washing their hands well and often and social distancing. It also makes millions more U.S. adults eligible for a COVID booster shot.

How mood disorders increase COVID risk
Research suggests that mood disorders, infection and autoimmune disease all seem to have common triggers.

A July 2021 review of 21 studies involving more than 91 million people published in JAMA Psychiatry found the odds of COVID-19 hospitalization is dramatically higher for people with mood disorders than those who do not have one of these mental health conditions.

But why? Research on the link between depression—one of the most common mood disorders—and a wide range of health issues could provide some clues.

People with depression are at higher risk for a range of chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, pain, and Alzheimer's disease, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Scientists are still working to understand this link, but one explanation is that many people with depression lack access to quality healthcare. Depression could also make it more difficult for people to manage their health and protect their well-being by doing things like taking their medicine as directed, following a healthy diet, and exercising regularly.

Up to one-third of clinically depressed people abuse drugs or alcohol, which is another risk factor for severe COVID-19, according to the CDC.

But there may also be changes in the body associated with depression that could increase people’s risk for other health issues. Researchers have found increased inflammation, changes in heart rate and circulation, abnormal stress hormone levels and metabolic changes (similar to those linked to diabetes) among people with the condition, the NIMH explains.

Depression rates have surged
Many mental health experts say the addition of mood disorders to the running list of conditions that place people at high risk for COVID-19 should have come sooner.

In 2019 alone, an estimated 19.4 million U.S. adults had at least one episode of depression, the CDC estimates. And roughly 35 percent of these people did not receive treatment for their condition.

Since the pandemic began, depression rates have increased. An October 2021 review of 48 studies published between January 2020 and January 2021 investigated how factors like social restrictions, lockdowns, school and business closures, job losses and other consequences of COVID-19 worsened mental health around the world. The review, published in The Lancet, found that the pandemic triggered 53.2 million new cases of depression in 2020—a nearly 28 percent increase from the year before.

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “COVID-19: People with Certain Medical Conditions.” Oct 14, 2021.
Ceban F, Nogo D, Carvalho IP, et al. Association Between Mood Disorders and Risk of COVID-19 Infection, Hospitalization, and Death: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. 2021;78(10):1079–1091.
U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. “Chronic Illness and Mental Health: Recognizing and Treating Depression.” 2021.
American Addiction Centers. “Depression & Substance Abuse.” Aug 2, 2021.
Livia J De Picker, Marisa Casanova Dias, Michael E Benros, et al. The Lancet Psychiatry. Severe mental illness and European COVID-19 vaccination strategies. February 17, 2021.
U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. “Major Depression.” Oct 2021.
The Lancet. “Global prevalence and burden of depressive and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Oct 8, 2021.

 

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