Are Brain Health Issues Linked to Death from COVID-19?

Psychiatric Issues Increase COVID Mortality

Having a psychiatric diagnosis significantly increases the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19, being hospitalized with the illness, and dying from COVID-19, according to a pair of new studies.

One study in World Psychiatry assessed the impact of a recent diagnosis of a mental health disorder—including ADD/ADHD, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia—on the risk of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization, and mortality. This study analyzed electronic health records of 61 million adult patients from 360 hospitals nationwide through July 29, 2020. Patients with a recent diagnosis of a mental disorder had nearly a 50% increased risk of dying from COVID-19 (8.5%) compared with people with COVID who didn’t have a mental illness diagnosis (4.7%).

Patients with a recent diagnosis of a mental disorder had nearly a 50% increased risk of dying from COVID-19. Click To Tweet

People with a mental health problem were also at significantly higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and being hospitalized (27.4% vs 18.6%). This link was strongest in people diagnosed with depression or schizophrenia. The investigators also found that women with mental disorders had higher odds of COVID-19 infection than men. The gender disparity was highest in those with ADD/ADHD. And African Americans were more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than Caucasians, with the largest ethnic gap seen in those with depression.

The other study, which appeared in JAMA Network Open, analyzed data on 1,685 hospital patients with COVID-19 and found that those who had been diagnosed with a mental health disorder were about 50% more likely to die than patients without a psychiatric diagnosis. The diagnoses investigated in this study included mental and behavioral health disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, and self-harm.

These findings are a critical reminder that mental health matters, and it’s of paramount importance to take care of your emotional, behavioral, and cognitive health.

MENTAL HEALTH IS LINKED TO PHYSICAL HEALTH

Most people—including many healthcare professionals—assume that mental health is purely psychological, but our mental well-being is tied to our biological health. And it’s a two-way street. Physical health problems can contribute to psychiatric issues, and mental health problems can increase the risk of certain physical diseases. For example, people with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and of developing it at a younger age. On the other side, research shows that people with CVD have a greater risk of depression and dementia.

Amen Clinics, the global leader in brain health, has identified the major biological risk factors that are tied to mental health problems. Here are 3 of the most important ones to know.

MENTAL HEALTH AND CHRONIC INFLAMMATION

Chronic inflammation has been linked to a range of physical diseases, such as CVD, cancer, and arthritis. You may be surprised to discover that systemic inflammation has also been associated with a variety of psychiatric, cognitive, and behavioral issues, including:

The link between depression and inflammation has been widely studied. Research shows that depression is a known side effect of certain medications that intentionally increase inflammation (including vaccinations and interferon, a drug used to treat some cancers and hepatitis). Conversely, medications and nutritional supplements that have anti-inflammatory properties—including aspirin, ibuprofen, omega-3 fatty acids, and curcumins—have been shown to lower depression in people with chronic inflammation.

In the JAMA Network Open study on psychiatric diagnoses and COVID mortality risk, the investigators suggest that “Psychiatric symptoms may arise as a marker of systemic pathophysiologic processes, such as inflammation, that may, in turn, predispose to mortality.” Other research, including a study in Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that people with high levels of C-reactive protein—a biomarker for inflammation—are more likely to develop severe illness from COVID-19.

Smart Strategies: To reduce chronic inflammation, eliminate inflammatory foods from your daily diet, including sugar, refined carbohydrates, and fats that are high in omega-6 fatty acids (such as many refined vegetable oils).

MENTAL HEALTH AND THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

The human body’s immune system has two key functions—defense and tolerance. It defends against foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It’s also on the lookout for internal troublemakers, such as cancer cells. The immune system also regulates your level of tolerance to potential environmental triggers, including allergens—everything from pollen and bee stings to peanuts and corn.

When your immune system carries out these key functions optimally, it helps keep your body (and your mind) healthy. Weak defenses or a low tolerance level (or an immune system that becomes overwhelmed) increases your vulnerability to infections, such as COVID-19, makes you more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, and increases your risk for anxiety, depression, and psychosis.

Having an autoimmune disease is associated with an increased risk for:

  • Mood disorders (45% increased risk)
  • Schizophrenia (45% increased risk)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease

Smart strategies: Boost the immune system with nutritional supplements, such as vitamin D, zinc, and therapeutic mushrooms. Eat more garlic, a natural immunity enhancer. In addition, practice stress-management techniques since stress hurts your immune system.

MENTAL HEALTH AND INFECTIONS

Infectious illnesses, including Lyme disease, streptococcus (strep throat), helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), and others are a major cause of psychiatric and cognitive problems that few medical professionals recognize. Children who had an infectious disease had a significant increase in mental health problems as adults, according to a large study from Denmark. Additional research from that country found that being hospitalized for any infectious disease as a child or as an adult increased the risk for mood disorders by 62% later in life.

Chronic infections, such as Lyme disease, disrupt the immune system and cause damaging inflammatory responses, according to a 2018 study in the Journal of Immunology. It may increase vulnerability to viruses, such as COVID-19, and may worsen outcomes.

Smart strategies: Get tested for common infections and consult with an integrative medicine (also called functional medicine) physician. Eliminate foods that are possible allergens, such as sugar, gluten, dairy, corn, and soy, as well as artificial colors, additives, and preservatives.

ADD/ADHD, depression, and other mental and behavioral health conditions—can’t wait. During these uncertain times, your mental well-being is more important than ever and waiting until life gets back to “normal” is likely to make your symptoms worsen over time.

At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834. If all our specialists are busy helping others, you can also schedule a time to talk.

27 Comments

  1. So many people suffer from a mental illness, and you want to drop a study that tells them they are more likely to succumb to Covid-19? Working with a variety of mental illnesses, you should be well aware that this could provide a sense of panic and helplessness in such individuals, which affects immunity levels further…or is the point to have them rush in for your services (that they may not be able to afford, or even be able to get an appt for for many months, thus compounding decreased immune levels from additional stress? If appears that publishing this blog post may be providing more harm than help.

    Comment by Heather — October 26, 2020 @ 5:52 AM

  2. Thank you for the article. I’d rather be aware of the connection between mental and physical health than live in ignorance.

    Comment by David — October 28, 2020 @ 3:37 AM

  3. Knowledge is power. Thank you for sharing the truth. We need to have access to and be educated about all of the studies surrounding disease, particularly COVID-19. This is a significant link that needs to be further investigated.

    Comment by Jennifer Walter — October 28, 2020 @ 3:37 AM

  4. I have to say I disagree with Heather. I feel it is best to be informed about this since if a person is aware of the potential consequences, they can take precautions to better take care of themselves. I have been following Dr. Amen for years and feel he has some of the best advice for people with Psychiatric Illnesses. Nutrition and brain health are too often overlooked in the course of treatment and he has had excellent results in this area. Patients have a right to know and if they know the chances, they have a better chance to be prepared and take care to follow prevention protocols such as wearing a mask, socially distancing and avoiding large gatherings, etc. as well as to eat healthy and do what they can to reduce stress and boost their immune systems. Thank you for your work Dr. Amen.

    Comment by Katherine Young — October 28, 2020 @ 4:25 AM

  5. I have anxiety, and panic disorder. I don’t see how you can post this article about this relating to COVID, a virus. There have been virus of one kind or another by entire life. I am not going to stop living my life , because of the fear of death. We all die eventually, and these scare tactics are not acceptable to me. I am thinking of not following you anymore.

    Comment by Kathleen Kennedy — October 28, 2020 @ 5:09 AM

  6. Thanks for the information. Knowledge is power. Hopefully those with these issues will maintain their vigilance to stay safe.

    Comment by Pleas — October 28, 2020 @ 6:07 AM

  7. I’m doomed, my children are doomed,…wouldn’t it do more good if this article had gone in the direction of reducing risky behavior for COVID? Wearing masks everywhere…maintaining social distancing while still being social…and figuring out ways to work from home…to increase brain health (like you endlessly promote)and, more importantly, community health. So kids can stay in school and business get enough cash to not collapse.

    Comment by Rose Cohen — October 28, 2020 @ 6:35 AM

  8. I am also interested in hearing your answer to Heather’s comment above. This is a big concern and worry to those of us that have mental disabilities. Thank you.

    Comment by Sally Brock — October 28, 2020 @ 6:41 AM

  9. Although I am a person who is always looking for ways to improve my health, including my mental health, I would have to agree with Heather. I realize information regarding healthier living habits needs to get into the hands of those that need to improve their well-being. However, for those with anxiety, depression, and other mental health diagnoses, seeing that the risk of dying from Covid increases drastically if one suffers from one of these illnesses does nothing but increase anxiety and paranoia, thus lowering immunity further. I would say that if you really care about people taking care of themselves and want to help them learn how to do that…make these services accessible! I have suffered from major depression since childhood. I would love to be able to get a SPECT scan to see what part(s) of my brain needs the most attention and which supplements are best for my particular body but I would be homeless if I invested in one test, never mind the ongoing supplements. I love the work but like most corporations in America, you’re catering to the upper classes whose chances of healing are greater due to the fact that they have resources and support systems. Amen Clinics, why don’t you start a revolution and provide services for everyone? The insurance companies will want to get on board when their money starts going somewhere else…

    Comment by Mollie — October 28, 2020 @ 6:57 AM

  10. I agree with Heather comment. A mental health practitioner knowing they deal with patients who have anxiety, hypochondria and other illnesses would never put an article out like this and freak everyone out! Use some discretion beyond lining your pockets with money as scared individuals come running to fix their issues. I was just about to book to come see you and get a scan done and once I read this article I changed my mind.

    Comment by David — October 28, 2020 @ 8:23 AM

  11. I agree with you heather ! I am personally offended as well !

    Comment by Lester — October 28, 2020 @ 8:29 AM

  12. My post dissapeared. That is called censorship.

    Comment by Kathleen Kennedy — October 28, 2020 @ 8:32 AM

  13. I have to say I am surprised by this article and the co-relation of mental illness and the contracting and subsequent death as a results. This is just a bit much. This article should be removed. What nonsense. I am disappointed.

    Comment by Diana Smithson — October 28, 2020 @ 9:19 AM

  14. Correction – contracting and subsequent death due to the Corona virus

    Comment by Diana Smithson — October 28, 2020 @ 9:20 AM

  15. My post disappeared as well. Wow!

    Comment by Diana Smithson — October 28, 2020 @ 9:21 AM

  16. I fully agree with “Mollie’s” post.

    Comment by Diana Smithson — October 28, 2020 @ 9:22 AM

  17. I agree with Molly and Heather. This did more to increase my anxiety since I’ve lost one person to COVID, almost lost another and have a friend with continuing effects. I’m done with your site.

    Comment by Leslie — October 28, 2020 @ 11:46 AM

  18. I am truly sorry that some are troubled by this news and offended that it was shared. However, this blog ALSO goes to those that have loved ones affected by this info. I am responsible for an ADD person and another with anxiety/panic disorders. I NEED to know how they may be affected by COVID. So I thank you for sharing this info.
    I really don’t know of a way it could have been done that wouldn’t upset someone, but I appreciate those that shared their comments. You are heard and I wish you all well. I also second the request to have clinic services and SPECT covered by insurance. Many more people need access to these resources.

    Comment by Gwen Nail — October 28, 2020 @ 12:43 PM

  19. This will most likely disappear as well, 1st. i agree with Heather as well. 2nd. there are cases popping up everywhere that prove that patients who passed, and their COD was c19 is untrue, fact is; families are having secondary autopsies performed and the COD is not c19 nor related, also because the test can be a false positive which has even been established by the CDC themselves in their Accuracy of Data findings “on their website” i have screen shots of all of it, as i’ve been documenting and studying since Feb. CDC admits also that mask wearers now are more likey to get the virus than those that do not, … there i new data coming out (that should have already as it’s common sense), often now, as i had been saying, it will come out in the wash, always does. As far as mental health issues promoting c19? where is the clinical data, i would like to review it also and add it to my documentation. thanks.

    Comment by Pamela Sophia — October 28, 2020 @ 3:26 PM

  20. I would think that people with OCD would be least likely to become infected unless their doctors and their staff infect them. Is this related to being hospitalized in psychiatric hospitals?

    Comment by b. — October 28, 2020 @ 6:48 PM

  21. Wow I couldn’t phrase is better than Molly did it. How many times I spoke with Dr. Amen reps over the phone trying to find a single possibility to be able to afford a SPECT scan…and oh well. – there is no such thing. The only choice out there is to pay the entire treatment price in increments. Thank you, no, thank you. And then all of these articles spreading fear and more panic…. The subliminal message is: sell your house and go get test and treatment in Amen clinic or else… You might end up in one of those doomed dark lists of most volnurable… Yes I agree – knowledge is a power…but how about promoting it under a different light? Like ” we are a strong supportive community – we are here for you” or “the unconditional loving kindness does make miracles happen” .
    So if I keep seeing these “downer” brain washing blogs – I’ll just quit.
    How about an effort to make your services more affordable for a hard working layer of this inevitably doomed population?

    Comment by Raya — October 28, 2020 @ 7:09 PM

  22. This is not helpful at a time like this. This type of article will make people more anxious and depressed. I find too many articles from Amen Clinics to be like this. Please think about articles that might help people to more proactive in their mental health and good news studies.

    Comment by Catherine Cheyssiial — October 28, 2020 @ 9:54 PM

  23. Don’t shoot the messenger!
    It is interesting that (so far) all those that don’t want to know this don’t seem to appreciate that there are others who do. While all those that do what to know this, do seem to appreciate that there are others who don’t.

    Comment by Heather B — October 29, 2020 @ 3:56 AM

  24. My Son died in 2009,in a car accident,at age 18. I have severe depression from an emotionally abusive husband, abandonment. Owns his,my own,business.
    I have autoimmune disorders,too.
    Can you help me,please,Amen Clinics with low copay,$20.00???
    Humana Insurance,or give me free scanning,help,please,I desperately need help. Cognitive therapy,too. Can’t drive far for appointments.

    Comment by Pamela Davidson LeBar — October 29, 2020 @ 7:04 AM

  25. I have had no response to my email . I do not see a
    Bibliography or the name of the person who wrote this article . I am a current customer who has purchased supplements etc
    I had planned to take my children to get the scans
    I also think the knowledge is power , tests why I read the articles . The information boyish have been delivered with out the shocking headline , designed to pull the reader in . I just had a child diagnosed so when I opened my email and saw that it , it caused me anguish and panic . With the pandemic so many are suffering and I think that it’s self serving of them to exploit people’s weaknesses and fears . It doesnt make them look good , it makes them appear to be Cruel and cold . I have sent them so much business and now I have a bad impression and I don’t want to give them my money anymore . Very sad indeed . I have lost all respect due to their lack of ya t and empathy to the people they say they want to help . Not helpful, hurtful . Still waiting for a response

    Comment by Lester — October 30, 2020 @ 7:08 AM

  26. I find is logic that when our brain is unhealthy we are easy pray for viruses. Don’t panic…put a remedy to it. This is what this article is advancing.

    Comment by Esther — October 30, 2020 @ 9:53 PM

  27. Wow! I have read all of the comments that seem to be rather confusing. I spent most of my life in and out of doctors office with upper respiratory infections. My dad smoked 2 packs a day, my first husband the same. My dad died at 43 from complications to a surgery and I got rid of the first husband. Fast forward to when people could no longer smoke in public. Wow did my doctor’s visits decrease to 4 to 6 times a year. So what I am trying to say here is that second hand smoke made me sick for a large part of my life. I am now 71 and most of the time I only go to the doctor every six months for a check-up. So smokers give up smoking for yourself and those around you.

    Comment by Mattha McConnell — November 11, 2020 @ 10:38 PM

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