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COVID Mortality is Higher with Psychiatric Illness

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We’re hearing a lot about people at risk for death with COVID – the elderly, African Americans, men, those with medical problems or low vitamin D, and this new study adds people with mental illness to the list.

Published On: 11/11/20

Duration: 1 minute, 48 seconds

Transcript:

We’re hearing a lot about people at risk for death with COVID – the elderly, African Americans, men, those with medical problems or low vitamin D, and this new study adds people with mental illness to the list.

Based on data from 1685 patients hospitalized with COVID in the Spring of 2020, the overall mortality rate was 20%, but the rate of death for people with a psychiatric diagnosis was 1.5 times higher. Now, people with psychiatric diagnoses have higher rates of medical illnesses – true – but the actual mortality rate was 2.3 times higher – the researchers adjusted for those kinds of confounders which lowered the rate attributable to psychiatric diagnosis alone to 1.5. 

The study, which was conducted by Luming Li and colleagues at Yale, relied on diagnostic coding, and did not have information on individual diagnoses.

Most mental illnesses are associated with inflammation and compromised immune function, which may explain this association. Last September we interviewed Janusz Rybakowski about lithium’s pro-immunology and anti-viral effects, and Dr. Rybakowski is currently involved in an international study that will compare survival rates from COVID among patients with bipolar disorder on lithium vs. other mood stabilizers. 

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