COVID-19 outbreak is associated with mental health implications during viral infection and at short-term follow-up. Data on psychiatric and cognitive sequelae at medium-term follow-up are still lacking. During an ongoing prospective cohort study, the psychopathological and cognitive status of 226 COVID-19 pneumonia survivors (149 male, mean age 58) were prospectively evaluated one and three months after hospital discharge. Psychiatric clinical interview, self-report questionnaires, and neuropsychological profiling of verbal memory, working memory, psychomotor coordination, executive functions, attention and information processing, and verbal fluency were performed. Three months after discharge from the hospital, 35.8% still self-rated symptoms in the clinical range in at least one psychopathological dimension. We observed persistent depressive symptomatology, while PTSD, anxiety, and insomnia decreased during follow-up. Sex, previous psychiatric history, and the presence of depression at one month affected the depressive symptomatology at three months. Regardless of clinical physical severity, 78% of the sample showed poor performances in at least one cognitive domain, with executive functions and psychomotor coordination being impaired in 50% and 57% of the sample. Baseline systemic immune-inflammation index (SII), which reflects the immune response and systemic inflammation based on peripheral lymphocyte, neutrophil, and platelet counts, predicted self-rated depressive symptomatology and cognitive impairment at three-months follow-up; and changes of SII predicted changes of depression during follow-up. Neurocognitive impairments associated with severity of depressive psychopathology, and processing speed, verbal memory and fluency, and psychomotor coordination were predicted by baseline SII. We hypothesize that COVID-19 could result in prolonged systemic inflammation that predisposes patients to persistent depression and associated neurocognitive dysfunction. The linkage between inflammation, depression, and neurocognition in patients with COVID-19 should be investigated in long-term longitudinal studies, to better personalize treatment options for COVID-19 survivors.
Keywords: COVID-19; Depression; Follow-up; Inflammation; Mental health; Psychiatry.
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