- Nine out of 10 COVID survivors who develop depression benefit from antidepressants
- Typically, only 40 to 60 percent of patients respond to medications.
- Experts say virus-caused inflammation could lead to post-Covid depression
A study has found that coronavirus survivors who develop depression respond better to drugs than most people.
Surveys show that 40 percent of patients who catch the virus feel depressed for months on end.
A wave of depression was expected as the pandemic spread as increasing numbers of people were being affected by the ‘Long Covid’.
At least four out of 10 patients usually respond to antidepressants.
But scientists have discovered that nine out of 10 Covid survivors quit battling the blues after recovering from an infection from taking drugs.
The team of academics based in Milan expected a success rate of less than 70 percent.
Lead author Dr Mario Mazza, a psychiatrist at the University of San Raffaele, said: ‘We know that COVID has led to an epidemic of mental health problems.
Post-Covid depression is a serious issue, with about 40 percent of COVID patients developing depression within six months of infection.
‘But this study indicates that patients who have had covid have a better chance of managing their depression than we thought.’
According to researchers from the University of San Raffaele in Milan, about four out of 10 people who catch Covid develop depression within six months of catching the virus. But more than 90 percent of sufferers benefit from antidepressants, ‘significantly more’ than the typical 40 to 60 percent of patients who respond to the drugs
He added: ‘This is a pilot study, but it does indicate that post-Covid depression is treatable.’
The coronavirus has been linked to a myriad of symptoms in patients who outgrow the virus.
The most common are fatigue, headache and difficulty breathing, but depression and anxiety are also recognized by the NHS as long-lasting effects.
Official survey shows depression rate up to 70% higher than before Covid, but falling since summer lockdowns are lifted
Official data shows that depression rates in the UK have started to fall after shootings during the Covid pandemic.
The Office for National Statistics estimated that 10 per cent of adults in the UK were depressed before the virus first hit.
It more than doubled to 21 percent last winter after two brutal waves of the pandemic and three lockdowns, with women and youth being the worst hit.
The ONS estimates that the ratio dropped to 17 percent last month, based on its rolling survey of about 14,000 people across the country.
Lockdowns, social isolation, job cuts and fears about the pandemic have been linked to higher rates of depression in other studies.
Most COVID restrictions and social restrictions have been lifted around the UK since the summer, despite some variation between countries.
Experts said inflammation caused by the virus is the main trigger contributing to post-Covid depression.
And the anti-inflammatory properties of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) — a type of antidepressant — may directly target this inflammation.
The academics treated 58 patients who developed depression six months after catching the virus.
They were given sertraline, paroxetine, fluvoxamine, fluoxetine or citalopram.
The volunteers took a questionnaire about their symptoms before being given the drug. Four weeks later they were asked the same questions.
53 out of 58 patients said their depression got significantly better after taking the drug.
Dr Mazza said: ‘We generally expect 40 out of 58 patients to have responded positively to treatment.’
The results were not skewed by gender, type of antidepressant, or whether the patient had previously suffered from mental health problems.
This suggests ‘a high antidepressant response rate after Covid depression’, experts wrote in the study, which has yet to be reviewed.
The findings will be presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference in Lisbon.
The team will now conduct large-scale trials.
They also want to test whether antidepressants can help with other post-Covid symptoms, such as cognitive impairment and fatigue.
Dr Livia de Picker, a psychiatrist from the University of Antwerp in Belgium, who was not involved in the study, said: ‘Even if we still do not understand all the causes of prolonged Covid, this study indicates that Post-Covid depression symptoms respond a lot. Well to serotonergic antidepressants.
‘This is not surprising to me, as recent studies have shown that such compounds can also protect patients from severe COVID disease and several antidepressants are currently under study as COVID treatment options.
‘I hope that the current findings will inspire further research into the mechanisms through which antidepressants may help against both acute and chronic COVID complaints.’