PTSD Prevalent In One-Third Of Severe Covid-19 Patients: Study

Medical workers tend a Covid-19 infected patient of the CHM hospital in Mamoudzou, on the French … [+]

Around one-third or 30 percent of severe Covid-19 patients experience posttraumatic stress disorder, according to a research letter published in JAMA Psychiatry.

A study of 381 patients who were admitted to the emergency department with the coronavirus and recovered were referred for a post-recovery health check at the Fondazione Policlinico Universitario Agostino Gemelli IRCCS in Rome, Italy.

They were offered a comprehensive psychiatric assessment from April 21, 2020, to October 15, 2020. While the patients had recovered from severe Covid-19 within 30 to 120 days, 43.6 percent of them were women. Their mean age was 55 years old. Most of them were hospitalized (309 out of 381 or 81 percent) and their average length of stay in the hospital was 18 days.


PTSD was diagnosed in 30 percent of 115 patients. Other than that, 17.3 percent of the 381 patients were in a depressive episode and another 7 percent were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.

More than half of the patients with PTSD (55 percent) were women. They also reported higher rates of a history of psychiatric disorders (34.8 percent) and delirium or agitation during acute illness (16.5 percent).

The researchers note that their results were expected and were similar to the findings reported in research that examined other traumatic events. Even among patients with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), the PTSD prevalence was around 32.2 percent.

In another article published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, researchers studied 180 Covid-19 patients at the Lille University in France between March and May 2020 to assess the prevalence of PTSD. While 70 percent of those patients required hospitalization, only 6.5 percent of them experienced PTSD.

But in another study in the Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health, researchers delved into how the lockdown restrictions impacted the general population’s mental health. Following an online survey during the April 2020 home quarantine period, they found that the prevalence of PTSD was 28.2 percent and 14.1 percent for depression.

PTSD is a common outcome of a wide variety of traumatic events, from wars and disasters to individual events such as road accidents. Patients with PTSD live under the shadow of past trauma. According to the American Psychiatric Association, the symptoms of PTSD, include persistent intrusive thoughts, irritability, flashbacks and nightmares, heightened reactivity to stimuli, insomnia, and hypervigilance.

The limitations of the JAMA Psychiatry study include the small sample size and that it was a single-center study that lacked a control group of patients who visited the emergency department for other reasons. Also, PTSD symptom rates can vary over time.

Anuradha Varanasi is a freelance science writer. She writes on the intersection of health/medicine, racial disparities, and climate change. She earned an MA in Science