Covid-19 has caused our mental wellbeing to suffer in the last 12 months, particularly heightened levels of stress as a result of lockdown restrictions. But recent research has unveiled a longer-term link between the virus and mental health issues – particularly those who make a recovery from infection.

A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal by researchers at the University of Oxford, using data from over 230,000 COVID-19 patients, suggests that there is an increased risk of developing mental health and neurological conditions for those who survive the virus. ‘COVID-19 is followed by significant rates of neurological and psychiatric diagnoses over the subsequent 6 months,’ with as many as one in three being diagnosed with a mental health condition with anxiety and mood disorders being the most common outcomes.

These figures are substantially higher compared to patients with flu or pneumonia – the report showed that there was a 44% greater risk of neurological and mental illness after Covid-19 than after flu – and for many sufferers, it was their first recorded neurological or psychiatric diagnosis. The frequency of conditions also seems to rise with the severity of coronavirus case, with diagnoses occurring in 39% of patients who were hospitalised, 46% of those admitted to intensive care, and 62% of patients who experienced encephalopathy, an altered mental state, as a result of the virus.

As research continues to examine the long-term effects of COVID-19, there is evidence that stress is a key factor for the impact of the virus on mental health in a similar way to other adverse life events. The study’s lead author, Paul Harrison, professor of psychiatry at the University of Oxford said: “Our view is that a lot of the mental health consequences of Covid are … to do with the stress of knowing that one has had Covid and all the implications that go with that.”

What’s evident is the need for support for those who have had Coronavirus, even if symptoms appear to have cleared. As lockdown lifts, it will be easier to meet up with friends and family and important to open up about how we’re feeling physically and mentally.

Covid has affected us in so many ways over the last year that a popular Life Event on the 87% App is focused on helping users understand the impact of the virus on our daily lives, work and health, with articles that answer questions about the vaccine, for example, amongst other topics. But another key area where users are focusing their attention is building resilience as they look for ways to improve their mental fitness and develop mechanisms to deal with the challenging situations that we’re facing as a result of the virus.

Dr. Jazz Croft, Behavioural Scientist at 87%, “This is a landmark study that supports findings from earlier, smaller scale studies that COVID-19 carries a significant risk for developing psychiatric and neurological disorders. This evidence suggests that monitoring people’s mental health during COVID-19 recovery and providing access to treatments would make a significant and positive impact on the lives of COVID-19 survivors and prevent longer-term, chronic mental health problems.”

Caroline Outterside, Psychological Therapist at 87%, added “Employers need to show extra sensitivity and empathy to those returning post Covid infection and put some support measures in place. We would suggest a genuine open-door policy with regular feedback and communication opportunities, as well as flexible working hours and ensuring their workload is manageable. This will increase staff confidence and help people manage any physical and mental health symptoms such as fatigue and low levels of motivation and concentration.”

Your mindset plays a huge role in how you live your life and how you cope with ups and downs. 87% offers coaching through these eventualities.

For information on how 87% can help build employee mental fitness, visit www.87percent.co.uk.