Mental Illness Linked To Increased COVID-19 Mortality

The pandemic is increasing rates of psychiatric symptoms, and a study recently found that mental health conditions put COVID-19 patients at higher risk for fatal outcomes.

Researchers have discovered a new factor that’s influencing COVID-19 death rates: mental health. A recent article from Clinical Psychiatry News describes how people with psychiatric disorders have a 50% higher risk of COVID-19 mortality than those without a psychiatric diagnosis.

The researchers already knew that mental health disorders could negatively affect other medical conditions, and they believed the same would be true of COVID-19. To test their hypothesis, they looked at 1,685 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19. Of these, 28% had a prior psychiatric diagnosis. They found that 318 patients died, and two-week mortality rates in people with psychiatric disorders were more than double the rates in those without them.

The Factors at Play

The patients with mental health disorders were also more likely to be older Caucasian women and have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney or liver disease, cancer and heart failure. The average age of patients was around 65.

The study lists a few different factors that may cause increased death rates. Psychiatric conditions can cause inflammatory and stress responses that worsen COVID-19. Mental health disorders can also change neurochemical processes and weaken the immune system, making these patients more vulnerable to health issues.

The Perfect Storm

These findings are unfortunate due to the nature of the pandemic. Mental health issues are rising throughout the country due to the stress, isolation, financial worry and uncertainty surrounding the ongoing situation. A survey from The Recovery Village found that many are experiencing increased substance use and mental health symptoms.

The results from surveying 440 mental health professionals include:

  • 81% of professionals have clients with increased mental health symptoms
  • Anxietydepression and stress symptoms had the largest increases
  • 53% of professionals reported that their clients’ substance use increased
  • Only 2.4% reported a decrease in symptoms

Because COVID-19 creates greater risks for people with mental health conditions, rising rates of psychiatric symptoms could cause even more deaths throughout the country. Additionally, the risks also increase as people struggling with mental health tend to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. Substance abuse and addiction can weaken the immune system and many other bodily processes, making people more susceptible to health conditions like COVID-19. Overdose rates are also rising due to the pandemic, as people relapse due to isolation and lack of support.

The Recovery Village Can Help

Given the roles that addiction and mental health may play in COVID-19 outcomes, treatment is perhaps more important than ever before. People across the United States need effective, accessible recovery resources to ensure that feelings of stress and isolation can be managed.

The Recovery Village provides dual diagnosis treatment, meaning we address both addiction as well as any underlying mental health concerns. It’s important to treat all aspects of a person’s health — not just their substance use. Our full continuum of care helps people detox from drugs or alcohol, learn to manage difficult situations in healthier ways and transition back into day-to-day life with additional support and aftercare services. We also provide telehealth services and other virtual resources, allowing clients to receive life-saving treatment from the safety of their homes.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or a co-occurring mental health disorder, The Recovery Village is here to help. Our facilities have made COVID-19 safety a top priority so clients can continue receiving care without fear of virus transmission. Contact us today to learn more about treatment plans and programs that can work well for your needs.

Our Other COVID-Related Studies:


Yasgur, Batya. “Mental illness tied to increased mortality in COVID-19.” Clinical Psychiatry News, October 2, 2020. Accessed November 13, 2020.

Li, Luming; et al. “Association of a Prior Psychiatric Diagn[…]COVID-19) Infection.” Jama Network Open, September 30, 2020. Accessed November 13, 2020.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.