Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Older adults with mental health disorders are up to twice as likely to die from severe COVID-19 than those without the conditions, a study published Wednesday by JAMA Network Open found.
Thirty-six percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients previously diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder died within two weeks of admission, while 45% did so within four weeks, the data showed.
In comparison, 15% of those without a prior psychiatric diagnosis died within two weeks of hospitalization and 32% did so within four weeks, the researchers said.
"Having a prior psychiatric diagnosis may predispose you to having a worse outcome if you're hospitalized for COVID-19," study co-author Dr. Luming Li told UPI.
"Those with a history of psychiatric diagnoses should try to minimize exposure to those with COVID-19 so that they do not get [the disease]," said Li, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital.
One in five American adults has a mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
Although Li and her colleagues did not assess risk for COVID-19 death based on specific mental health disorders, several -- most notably depression and anxiety -- have been linked with increased inflammation in certain parts of the brain.
Multi-system inflammation also is one of several key health complications associated with COVID-19. However, while it's "possible" that inflammation could explain the link between mental illness and death from the new coronavirus, more research is needed to confirm it, Li said.
For their research, she and her colleagues analyzed data on 1,685 adults aged 47 to 83 years who were hospitalized with the virus.
Among these patients, 28% had a prior psychiatric diagnosis, and 19% ultimately died from COVID-19.
Patients who had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder tended to be older, female, white and non-Hispanic, the researchers said.
They also were more likely to have underlying health conditions -- including malignant cancer, cerebrovascular disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, myocardial infarction and HIV -- the researchers said.
"Individuals who do have COVID-19 and are hospitalized should make sure to tell providers about prior history of psychiatric diagnosis and mention it as a risk factor for more severe outcomes," Li said.