MONDAY, Sept. 12, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Preinfection psychological distress may be a risk factor for long COVID, according to a study published online Sept. 7 in JAMA Psychiatry.

Siwen Wang, M.D., from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Medicine in Boston, and colleagues used data (April 2020 to November 2021) from 54,960 participants in three large, ongoing, predominantly female cohorts — the Nurses’ Health Study II, Nurses’ Health Study 3, and the Growing Up Today Study — to determine whether high levels of psychological distress (depression, anxiety, worry, perceived stress, and loneliness) before severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection are prospectively associated with an increased risk for developing long COVID.

The researchers found that 6 percent of participants reported a positive SARS-CoV-2 test result during follow-up. Probable depression (risk ratio, 1.32), probable anxiety (risk ratio, 1.42), worry about COVID-19 (risk ratio, 1.37), perceived stress (highest versus lowest quartile: risk ratio, 1.46), and loneliness (risk ratio, 1.32) were each associated with long COVID when adjusting for sociodemographic factors, health behaviors, and comorbidities. Long COVID risk increased by nearly 50 percent for participants with two or more types of distress prior to infection (risk ratio, 1.49).

“Our results should not be misinterpreted as supporting a hypothesis that post-COVID-19 conditions are psychosomatic,” the authors write.

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