Study: Schizophrenia second greatest risk factor for COVID-19 death, after age

According to a recent study, people with schizophrenia had a 2.7 times higher chance of dying from COVID-19 than those without the disorder.

With huge vaccination programs rolling around the world, it’s almost every day we witness new studies related to the coronavirus in a circadian rhythm. According to a new study by US researchers, “Schizophrenia could be the second biggest risk factor contributing to COVID-19 mortality.” The study revealed that people with schizophrenia are nearly three times more likely to die from COVID-19 than those without a psychiatric condition.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental disorder that affects the ability of a person to think, feel and behave.  It is a chronic brain disorder, which causes distortions in thinking and perception. The recently published study suggests that people suffering from schizophrenia are more vulnerable to viral infections and are at a substantially elevated risk of dying from COVID-19.

The study led by the researchers of NYU Grossman School of Medicine in New York City found that people with schizophrenia had a 2.7 times higher chance of dying from infection caused due to coronavirus, representing the second-largest risk factor behind the age. Also, the study even concluded that people who are aged 75 and older had a 35.7 times higher risk of death. With the above findings, the researchers also claimed that patients with mood or anxiety disorders did not have a higher death risk from COVID-19.

The connection that links schizophrenia with COVID-19:

Since the arrival of the pandemic, experts have been searching for risk factors that affect more and more people and are trying to identify different protective measures in order to allocate limited resources to people with the greatest need. A number of previous studies have shown that people with mental health conditions or any psychiatric disorders in general, particularly depression and schizophrenia, have an increased risk of getting infected with the virus. However, it was unknown whether schizophrenia and other mental disorders were linked with a higher chance of dying from COVID-19 infection.

During the study, the researchers examined around 7,348 patients for 45 days following laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection. They classified these patients into three subgroups related to psychiatric diagnosis: Schizophrenia spectrum disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders, as well as a reference group with no mental illness. Through analysing these patients present in different categories, the researchers concluded that patients in the schizophrenia diagnosis group had three times greater odds of dying from COVID-19 than those without the disorder.

Interestingly, researchers predicted that delay in treatment or reduced access to health-care could have contributed to this outcome. Apart from this another hypothesis that came out of the study is that it is somewhere possible that the biological factors related to schizophrenia could increase mortality risk. It may be possible that schizophrenia may disturb the body’s immune system which in turn makes people affected with this chronic disorder more vulnerable to getting infected vis COVID-19.

Risk factors associated with schizophrenia:

This recent study not only details the efforts for the treatment and prevention of COVID-19 but also suggests that it is more important than ever to prioritise people with schizophrenia for COVID-19 vaccination.

People with schizophrenia usually have a high mortality rate as compared to those who do suffer from such mental disorders. It is often observed that schizophrenic patients often get neglected and most of the time do not get the required health-care benefits. They often suffer from poor quality of care and face discrimination mostly in medical care. COVID-19 may surely not be directly related to schizophrenia, but it absolutely indirectly affects schizophrenic patients because of the poor quality of care.

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