Many COVID-19 survivors experience cognitive complications, study finds

Mel Poole/Unsplash

A large proportion of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) survivors will be affected by neuropsychiatric and cognitive complications, according to a new research review led by Oxford Brookes University published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

For the study, psychology and psychiatry researchers evaluated published research papers to understand more about the possible effects of the SARS-COV-2 infection on the brain, and the extent 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. In one examined study, 95 percent of clinically stable COVID-19 patients had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other studies found between 17 to 42 percent of patients experienced affective disorders, such as depression.

The main short-term cognitive problems were found to be impaired attention, reported by 45 percent patients, and impaired memory, reported by 13 to 28 percent of patients.

In the long term, neuropsychiatric problems were mostly affective disorders and fatigue, as well as impaired attention, reported by 44 percent of patients, and memory, reported between 28 to 50 percent 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, BA, MA, M.Phil, PhD, senior lecturer in psychology at Oxford Brookes University, in a statement. “These conditions affect people's capacity to work effectively, drive, manage finances, make informed decisions and participate in daily family activities. If even just a fraction of patients experience neuropsychiatric complications, the impact on public health services could be significant.”

Experts said 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," said Kumar. "This will also enable healthcare providers to plan adequate health care and resources and improve the quality of life for many COVID-19 survivors.”

Editor's note: Click here for more information and ongoing COVID-19 updates for integrative healthcare professionals.