Giving Compass' Take:

• Studies reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a massive toll on the mental health of patients, health professionals, and the general population. 

• How are donors responding to the compounding mental health crisis that the pandemic is currently igniting? 

• Read how donors can address mental health in the age of COVID-19. 

“It is known from the previous SARS epidemic in 2002-2003, also called the ‘bird flu,’ that mental health was affected among patients who survived the disease and among the healthcare professionals treating the patients,” says Michael Eriksen Benros, a professor in the immunology and microbiology department at the University of Copenhagen and the Mental Health Centre Copenhagen.

Benros is corresponding author of the new review of 43 scientific articles in Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

“Our recently published article systematically reviews current knowledge on symptoms among healthcare professionals and patients, and the same appears to be the case for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Of the 43 scientific studies, 20 studies examined the mental health among health care professionals. A majority of the studies found higher levels of anxiety and depression as well as mental stress and poor quality of sleep.

Nineteen studies examined the mental health of the population as a whole. Here, too, it is the overall picture that the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be having a negative impact.

Only two studies have so far examined mental symptoms among patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The studies showed that 96% of seriously ill hospitalized patients with COVID-19 infection exhibited symptoms of post-traumatic stress. They also found an increased risk of developing depression after hospitalization with COVID-19.

“Many more and better studies are needed, but the results are still relevant. The numerous reports of decreased sense of smell and taste during a COVID-19 infection might indicate an effect on the nervous system. It is therefore worrying that mental symptoms have been detected during and immediately after the infection,” says Benros.

“One contributing factor might be that the infection has affected the brain and caused the symptoms, either directly or through the induced immune response.”

Read the full article about COVID-19 pandemic and mental health by Amanda Nybroe Rohde at Futurity.