CDC adds mental health disorders to list of severe COVID-19 risk factors

It’s not just physical health conditions that can put people at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness, but also mental health disorders, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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That means that the millions of people who suffer from mood disorders, including depression and schizophrenia, are eligible for booster shots of the coronavirus vaccines.

“As data from the COVID-19 pandemic has unfolded, we’ve kept a careful eye on those with the highest risks. Research has shown that that includes people with certain mental health conditions. The CDC has now validated what we have known for many months, and we must get the word out. The data is clear, the science is clear, and everyone living with a mental health condition should be aware,” said Schroeder Stribling, president and CEO of Mental Health America, in a statement. 

Two studies published this year found a link between mood disorders and higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes, WebMD reported. One January study in JAMA Psychiatry found that patients with schizophrenia were more likely to die from COVID-19. The researchers adjusted for other factors such as other medical conditions, sex, race and age. A July study, which includes evidence from 21 studies for people with mood disorders, showed that the likelihood of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 was higher for people with mental health problems.

Nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness, which can vary in severity, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Mental health worsened during the pandemic, with a global study finding that 53 million new depression cases were diagnosed in 2020, reported Medindia. 

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Other conditions that could put someone at higher risk from a COVID-19 infection include cancer, obesity, heart infection, chronic lung diseases, dementia, pregnancy, heart conditions and substance use disorders, the CDC’s list shows.

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