A Lancet study found that one-in-five of those diagnosed with CoVid "develop" mental illness within the next 90 days.
In the three months following testing positive for COVID-19, 1 in 5 survivors were recorded as having a first time diagnosis of anxiety, depression or insomnia. This was about twice as likely as for other groups of patients in the same period, the researchers said.We really, really do not want this to be even partly true. Once kindled, mental health issues tend to recur under later stresses, even if there are periods with few or no symptoms in between. Crises are often labor intensive for medical facilities. 20% is a big number, so that's a lot of extra misery in the world. There have been earlier reports of neurological sequelae to C19, and I remain worried about that. Maybe that is part of what is getting picked up in this study.
With that in mind, let me tell you how it may not be this bad. Bsking pointed out that the first finding is often the most robust in just about everything. The bigger number jumps out and asks to be studied. I believe it was Asimov who said that science does not progress by Eureka moments, but by scientists looking at results and muttering "Now, that's strange..."* So you are looking at bits of information culled from electronic records, and there may be three effects that eventually turn out to occur about equally, but whatever one just happened to show up more in the first run gets noticed. Let's study that.
Next, absent from the list of illnesses are bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, which would be really frightening. The three conditions listed are among the most over-diagnosed. Nervousness is different than anxiety. The latter is formless, an uneasiness looking for something to attach to, while the former is related to a specific something. You can be nervous about a job interview, and that's just a response to a life difficulty. People can be sad because they are grieving, but not have depression. However, they look and feel the same in the moment, and in the face of the stressor it may be hard to discern what is up. Also, if the doctor wants to give you an anxiolytic or an anti-depressant, she might err on the side of puffing up the chart a bit for insurance purposes. So...particularly if it is early in the course of events, a person might be nervous - you did just get diagnosed with something that might kill you. Or they might be sad, especially if including the sudden quarantine thoughts of mortality. They might find it harder to sleep. These might be just the normal responses to bad news. I said might. My worry is that while some of this is over-reading the situation, some of it is going to turn out to be real.
Just to editorialise slightly, something similar could be up with the economic fallout. If you lose your job you might get "nervous" and "sad" and "lose sleep." If you are talking with a doctor about this it might get called anxiety, depression, and insomnia. It isn't easy to draw clear lines. In fact, it is often impossible. We are going to find downstream effects of all of this. Students who graduate into a recession have less career success their entire lives, but we only discover it decades later, in aggregate. You can't necessarily see that in any individual over the first year. So if a business takes a hit and limps along for a while but two years later goes under it doesn't show up in the statistics for 2020. If the owner, or one of the people who had the best job she was likely to get for a while gets more and more discouraged and commits suicide two years after that we don't mark it anywhere as being related to the illness or our economic downturn because of it. It might be years before someone picks up a blip in the numbers and says "The over-55 group who went through the crisis in 2020 developed dementia earlier - or never did get back to full employment - or reported more sleep problems the rest of their lives, or whatever. When only looking at individuals it's hard to see that, because one might have only been affected 1%, not even noticeable, while his neighbor was affected 30% but it was attributed to other causes. His business may have been rocky anyway. His co-existing conditions might be most of the problem, but CoVid took a few years off the end fifteen years later.
*Prazosin is a blood-pressure medication, but guys in the VA system were mentioning "Y'know, doc, I haven't been having nightmares since I started this." Now it is a PTSD med.