Increased risk of dementia following COVID-19 diagnosis

07 April 2021

The Lancet Psychiatry: 6-month neurological and psychiatric outcomes in 236379 survivors of COVID-19: a retrospective cohort study using electronic health records

Researchers from Oxford have found a link between a diagnosis of COVID-19 and the subsequent diagnosis of several psychiatric and neurological conditions, including dementia. The study is published today (Tuesday 6 April) in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

Sara comments on morning sleep and dementia“Previous studies have highlighted that people with dementia are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. This new study investigates whether this relationship may also hold in the other direction.

“This retrospective study, mainly based on US data, indicates that people are at an increased risk of being diagnosed with dementia in the six months following a COVID-19 diagnosis, compared to those diagnosed with the flu or other respiratory disease. This risk is highest for those who were admitted to intensive treatment units.

“While this study analysed data from the first six months following a COVID-19 diagnosis, this increased risk may not be limited to this time frame. Given that the peak of COVID-19 hospitalisations in the UK occurred in January this year, and we already expect a backlog of people waiting to come forward or be seen about memory concerns, services must be prepared to deal with a large number of potential dementia cases.

“The study doesn’t focus on the cause of this relationship and it is important that researchers get to the bottom of what underlies these findings. While COVID-19 has already had a disproportionate effect on people with dementia in many ways, these neurological impacts are an additional concern and must be a focus of future research efforts into the long-term impact of the virus.”