The death of a loved one, financial or food insecurity, or a newly developed disability were some of the strongest predictors of whether a patient hospitalized for COVID-19 would experience symptoms of long COVID a year later, a new study finds.
Led by researchers from NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the study found that adult patients with such “major life stressors” — present in more than 50% of those followed — were at least twice as likely to struggle with depression, brain fog, fatigue, sleep problems, and other long-term COVID-19 symptoms, say the study authors.
Published online this week in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences (JNS), the analysis also confirmed the contribution of traditional factors to greater long COVID risk as shown by past studies — older age, disability level to start with, and a more severe initial case of COVID-19.
“Our study is unique in that it explores the impact of life stressors — along with demographic trends and neurological events — as predictors of long-term cognitive and functional disabilities that affected quality of life in a large population,” says lead study author Jennifer A. Frontera, MD, professor in the Department of Neurology at NYU Langone Health. “Therapies that lessen the trauma of the most stress-inducing life events need to be a central part of treatment for long COVID, with more research needed to validate the best approaches.”
The research used standard telephone survey tools in the field — the modified Rankin Scale (mRS), the Barthel Index, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (t-MoCA), and the NIH/PROMIS Neurological Quality Of Life (NeuroQoL) batteries — to measure level of daily function, clear thinking (cognition), anxiety, depression, fatigue and sleep quality. The team attempted follow-up with each of 790 patients six months and a year after COVID-19 hospitalization within NYU Langone Health between March 10, 2020 and May 20, 2020.
Of these surviving patients, 451(57%) completed 6-month and/or 12-month follow-up, and of them, 17% died between discharge and 12-month follow-up and 51% reported significant life stressors at 12-months.
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