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Patients with mental illness are vulnerable to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection because of behavioural changes associated with cognitive deterioration, especially without their caregivers. While studies have reported that SARS-CoV-2 infection risk and severe clinical outcomes are high among patients with mental illness, there is a lack of quantitative research supporting this claim. This study investigates if SARS-CoV-2 infection and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)-related death are higher in patients with mental illness than among those without a mental disorder.
A cohort study was conducted using the COVID-19 database of the National Health Insurance Service in South Korea. A total of 123 480 patients aged ⩾20 years who visited a hospital between 1 January 2020 and 30 May 2020 were analysed. Mental disorder diagnoses and types were determined based on 2019 medical records, and a multivariate logistic regression model was used to calculate the odds ratios (ORs) for SARS-CoV-2 infection and deaths.
The ORs for SARS-CoV-2 infection (OR 1.58; 95% CI 1.45–1.71) and COVID-19-related death (OR 2.18; 95% CI 1.57–3.04) were high among patients with mental illness. The OR of SARS-CoV-2 infection was higher among patients with severe mental illness (OR 2.60; 95% CI 2.21–3.06), dementia (OR 1.90; 95% CI 1.62–2.22) and substance use disorder (OR 4.98, 95% CI 3.60–6.88). The OR for COVID-19-related death was high among patients with severe mental illness (OR 3.53; 95% CI 1.82–6.83) and dementia (OR 2.12; 95% CI 1.39–3.22).
Patients with mental illness are at high risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19-related death. Behavioural changes associated with cognitive deterioration and long-term care facility residence increase SARS-CoV-2 infection risk, and severe medical conditions and delayed treatment increase the COVID-19-related mortality risk in patients with mental illness. Patients with mental illness are a priority target population for COVID-19 prevention and treatment, and it is important to plan prevention measures that address their needs.