Anxiety and depression symptoms after COVID-19 infection: results from the COVID Symptom Study app

Background

Mental health issues have been reported after SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, comparison to prevalence in uninfected individuals and contribution from common risk factors (eg, obesity and comorbidities) have not been examined. We identified how COVID-19 relates to mental health in the large community-based COVID Symptom Study.

Methods

We assessed anxiety and depression symptoms using two validated questionnaires in 413148 individuals between February and April 2021; 26998 had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. We adjusted for physical and mental prepandemic comorbidities, body mass index (BMI), age and sex.

Findings

Overall, 26.4% of participants met screening criteria for general anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression were slightly more prevalent in previously SARS-CoV-2-positive (30.4%) vs SARS-CoV-2-negative (26.1%) individuals. This association was small compared with the effect of an unhealthy BMI and the presence of other comorbidities, and not evident in younger participants (≤40 years). Findings were robust to multiple sensitivity analyses. Association between SARS-CoV-2 infection and anxiety and depression was stronger in individuals with recent (120 days) infection, suggesting a short-term effect.

Interpretation

A small association was identified between SARS-CoV-2 infection and anxiety and depression symptoms. The proportion meeting criteria for self-reported anxiety and depression disorders is only slightly higher than prepandemic.

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