People with a history of serious mental illness are twice as likely to die from Covid-19 compared to others who are infected with the virus, according to an Israeli study. The peer-reviewed research, published in the journal Molecular Psychology, showed that even years after hospitalisation such people are at increased risk of serious outcomes from the coronavirus, The Times of Israel reported.
The study also indicates that besides being twice as likely to die if infected, they are also twice as likely to be hospitalised. "This report has significant public health implications, indicating that doctors should pay especially close attention to people with a history of psychiatric illness when they test positive," lead researcher Prof. Mark Weiser, director of the Psychiatric Division at Sheba Medical Centre was quoted as saying. Researchers at the Centre in Israel analysed medical records of all 125,273 people aged 18-plus who have been hospitalised for psychiatric illness.
While the study is only on Israelis, Weiser said that the results have relevance internationally, highlighting the need for authorities to develop strategies to reduce the virus's impact on this group, the report said. The increased risk could be in part due to a set of lifestyle factors that often go hand-in-hand with a history of psychiatric illness, such as obesity, smoking, failure to keep health appointments, and lower engagement with exercise and other healthy lifestyle choices, Weiser said.
But specific Covid-related factors also play a part, he stressed. "Our findings suggest that there is value in special public health measures to reach out to vaccinate these patients, many of whom do not come in to get vaccinated of their own accord," the team wrote in the study. "Efforts must be made to reach-out to vaccinate individuals with a history of hospitalisation for a psychiatric disorder, particularly older males with schizophrenia, who are both least likely to be vaccinated and are at highest risk for mortality," they added.