Remarkable resilience during COVID crisis, but psychological complaints in long COVID

Remarkably few negative mental effects of the corona crisis have been reported so far. Despite uncertainty due to and fear of corona infection, people no longer suffer from gloom and fear. This is evident from research by Amsterdam UMC published in Nature Medicine. Researcher Brenda Penninx: “It is hopeful that a large proportion of people will appear resilient in the short term. But the long-term effects are not yet known. There are vulnerable groups, such as young people and minority groups, who have suffered more from psychological complaints. Those investigations have not yet been completed.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our society in recent years. The lockdowns, isolation measures and the consequences of corona contamination had major social consequences. It was therefore expected that there would be a significant increase in psychological complaints. Brenda Penninx and Christiaan Vinkers, both professors at Amsterdam UMC, studied the results of 150 studies in which hundreds of thousands of people were examined about their response to the corona crisis. Their analysis shows that, on average, people show only a very small increase in sadness and anxiety. The corona crisis therefore had no major effect on their mental status in the short term. Nor do the figures show an increase in the number of people with a psychiatric disorder or the number of suicides.

The researchers see a different picture in people with lung COVID symptoms. Fortunately, more and more attention is being paid to this group of people who continue to have psychological and cognitive complaints for a long time after a corona infection. Lung COVID complaints such as fatigue, cognitive problems and depression and anxiety symptoms, sometimes many months after infection, occur in more than 25% of people who have experienced a serious COVID infection. Recent research has shown that a chronic inflammatory process in the brain probably plays a role in lung COVID.

By listing all the scientific studies on COVID-19 and mental health, it also became clear that much of the research was of poor scientific quality. Instead of working together and closely following large groups of people, many small and limited studies appeared that do little to help us. Vinkers: “For future pandemics, it is essential that mental health is given priority from the start and that reliable figures are collected on this. In this way we can quickly see who is at risk of mental collapse due to a pandemic, and what is needed to maintain the resilience of people in the long term.”