Persistent neuropsychiatric symptoms after COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Brain Commun. 2021 Dec 17;4(1):fcab297. doi: 10.1093/braincomms/fcab297. eCollection 2022.


The nature and extent of persistent neuropsychiatric symptoms after COVID-19 are not established. To help inform mental health service planning in the pandemic recovery phase, we systematically determined the prevalence of neuropsychiatric symptoms in survivors of COVID-19. For this pre-registered systematic review and meta-analysis (PROSPERO ID CRD42021239750), we searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and PsycINFO to 20 February 2021, plus our own curated database. We included peer-reviewed studies reporting neuropsychiatric symptoms at post-acute or later time-points after COVID-19 infection and in control groups where available. For each study, a minimum of two authors extracted summary data. For each symptom, we calculated a pooled prevalence using generalized linear mixed models. Heterogeneity was measured with I 2. Subgroup analyses were conducted for COVID-19 hospitalization, severity and duration of follow-up. From 2844 unique titles, we included 51 studies (n = 18 917 patients). The mean duration of follow-up after COVID-19 was 77 days (range 14-182 days). Study quality was most commonly moderate. The most prevalent neuropsychiatric symptom was sleep disturbance [pooled prevalence = 27.4% (95% confidence interval 21.4-34.4%)], followed by fatigue [24.4% (17.5-32.9%)], objective cognitive impairment [20.2% (10.3-35.7%)], anxiety [19.1% (13.3-26.8%)] and post-traumatic stress [15.7% (9.9-24.1%)]. Only two studies reported symptoms in control groups, both reporting higher frequencies in COVID-19 survivors versus controls. Between-study heterogeneity was high (I 2 = 79.6-98.6%). There was little or no evidence of differential symptom prevalence based on hospitalization status, severity or follow-up duration. Neuropsychiatric symptoms are common and persistent after recovery from COVID-19. The literature on longer-term consequences is still maturing but indicates a particularly high prevalence of insomnia, fatigue, cognitive impairment and anxiety disorders in the first 6 months after infection.

Keywords: COVID-19; Long COVID; chronic COVID syndrome; neuropsychiatry; post-acute sequelae of COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Review