Remarkably few negative mental effects of the Covid-19 crisis have been reported so far. Despite uncertainty due to and fear of Covid contamination, people do not suffer much more from somberness and anxiety. That is what research from Amsterdam UMC shows. Brenda Penninx: “It is hopeful that a large proportion of people 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 that did suffer more psychological symptoms. Those studies have not yet been completed.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly disrupted our society in recent years. The lockdowns, isolation measures and consequences of Covid contamination had major social consequences. It was therefore expected that there would be a sharp increase in psychological complaints. Brenda Penninx and Christiaan Vinkers, both Amsterdam Public Health and Amsterdam Neuroscience researchers and professors at Amsterdam UMC, studied the outcomes of 150 studies that examined hundreds of thousands of people’s reactions to the Covid-19 crisis. Their analysis showed that, on average, people showed very little increase in somberness and anxiety symptoms. Thus, in the short term, the Covid-19 crisis did not have a major effect on their mental status . Nor do the figures show an increase in the number of people with psychiatric disorders or the number of suicides.

The researchers see a different picture in people with long-Covid symptoms. Fortunately, there is increasing attention to this group of people who continue to have long-term psychological and cognitive complaints after a Covid infection. Long-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 severe Covid infection. In long-Covid, a chronic inflammatory process in the brain probably plays a role according to recent research.

Listing all the scientific studies on Covid-19 and mental health also revealed that much of the research was of moderate scientific quality. Instead of collaborating 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 prioritized from the start and reliable figures are also collected on this. That way we can quickly see who is at risk of mental collapse due to a pandemic, and what is needed to keep people’s resilience good in the long term as well.”

Read the publication in Nature Medicine here.

Read the article in Het Parool (in Dutch) here.