People who experienced increased stress, anxiety and depression at the start of the pandemic were at greater risk of getting Covid-19, finds a study.
The research, published in the journal Annals of Behavioral Medicine, found that greater psychological distress during the early phase of the pandemic was significantly associated with participants later reporting SARS-CoV-2 infection, a greater number of symptoms and also more severe symptoms.
"The significance of the work is in that it turns the debate regarding the mental health aspects of the pandemic on its head. Our data show that increased stress, anxiety and depression are not only consequences of living with the pandemic, but may also be factors that increase our risk of getting SARS-CoV-2 too," said Kavita Vedhara, Professor at Nottingham's School of Medicine.
"Further work is now needed to determine whether and how public health policy should change to accommodate the fact that the most distressed people in our communities appear to be at greatest risk of Covid-19 infection," she added.
Previous research has shown that psychological factors such as stress and social support are associated with increased susceptibility to viral respiratory illnesses and more severe symptoms.
The team of experts from the University of Nottingham, King's College London and the University of Auckland in New Zealand conducted an observational study of nearly 1,100 adults, who completed surveys during April 2020 and self-reported incidence of Covid-19 infection and symptom experience across the pandemic through to December 2020.
The results showed that Covid-19 infection and symptoms were more common among those experiencing elevated psychological distress.
"Previous work has shown a clear relationship between distress and the development of viral infections indicating a vulnerability. Our study found that distress was associated with self-reported Covid-19 infection and the next step is to investigate whether this association is found in those with confirmed infection," said Trudie Chalder, Professor of Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy from King's College London.
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