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United States study reveals surprising group most at risk of Covid-19 despite vaccine

People with mental health disorders may be at greater risk of contracting Covid-19 even if they have been vaccinated, according to researchers in the United States.

A study found having a mental health disorder – including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, bipolar, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and eating disorders – was linked to higher odds of contracting “breakthrough” Covid-19, where vaccination did not stop infection.

The study involving more than 260,000 US veterans was conducted from February 2020 to November 2021.

Participants were defined as “fully vaccinated” but 97.5 per cent of them had not received a third booster dose at that time.

The authors said in fully adjusted models, individual psychiatric disorders were linked to a three to 16 per cent increased incidence of breakthrough infection among the sample.

That was comparable to the seven to 23 per cent increased incidence observed for physical comorbidities such as cancer, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

Camera IconParticipants were considered fully vaccinated but most had not received a third shot. NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled Credit: News Corp Australia

“There was variability in the magnitude of the increased incidence associated with specific psychiatric disorders, with larger effect sizes observed for adjustment disorder and substance use disorders among all adults, in addition to adjustment, bipolar and psychotic disorders among older adults,” they said.

“Psychiatric disorders remained significantly associated with incident breakthrough infections above and beyond sociodemographic and medical factors, suggesting that mental health is important to consider in conjunction with other risk factors.”

The authors concluded targeted strategies for preventing breakthrough infections should be considered for people with psychiatric disorders.

“This cohort study suggests that psychiatric disorder diagnoses were associated with an increased incidence of SARS-CoV-2 breakthrough infection among Veterans Affairs patients, with the strongest associations observed for older individuals,” they wrote.

“Individuals with psychiatric disorders may be at heightened risk for contracting Covid-19 even after vaccination, suggesting the need for targeted prevention efforts.”

That includes booster shots, screening and public health campaigns.

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