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September 8, 2022 6 mins

As overall pandemic worries continue to fade, one of the biggest curiosities continues to be log Covid, what causes it and who is the most susceptible?  A new study says that psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness, could be better predictors than physical ailments.  To be clear, it is not a causal relationship, but there is an association.  Siwen Wang, research fellow at Harvard and lead author of this study, joins us for what to know.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
It's Thursday, September eight. I'm Oscar Ramrrors from the Daily
Dive podcast in Los Angeles, and this is reopening America.
As overall pandemic worries continue to fade, one of the
biggest curiosities continues to be long COVID, what causes it
and who is the most susceptible. A new study says
that psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness could

be better predictors than physical ailments. To be clear, it's
not a causal relationship, but there is an association. Sue
and Wang, research fellow at Harvard and lead author of
the study, joins us for What to Know. Thanks for
joining us, you Wan, thank you. It's my owner to
be here. Well, let's talk about long COVID right now.
You know, in a lot of ways, we've seen the

pandemic subside. Many have been infected, many have had their
vaccines and booster shots. But a big curiosity that still
remains in all of this is long COVID. You know.
So these are people that have been infected with COVID
and then the symptoms remain for sometimes months after even
they might be testing negative. And one of the big
things that we don't know is why exactly it happens

and who might be more susceptible. You know, a lot
of people have said if you're a compromise or have hypertension,
different physical things you know, could increase your risk for
long COVID. But this new study, so when that you
were working on, shows that some psychological stressors are also
indicators of a more likelihood of this. So depression, anxiety, loneliness,
a lot of times these are predictors of experiencing long COVID.

So tell us a little bit more about the study,
So Win, thank you for the introduction of our research
and thank you for interest in our research. So briefly,
what we did was from early in the pandemic, we
followed more than fifty four thousand people for a year.
Over that year, more than three thousand contracted COVID nineteen,
so we also about your COVID symptoms and how long

they lost it. We found that psychological distress prior to infection,
including depression, anxiety, worry, perceived stress, and loneliness, were significantly
associated with increased risk of long COVID. These was not
explained by health behaviors such as smoking, or by physical
health conditions like asthma. And interestingly, what we found is

that these psychological conditions are even stronger predictors for long
COVID as compared to those physical conditions you just mentioned
like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity in our cohort. Finally, among
those who developed long COVID, we found that people with
higher psychological distress before getting COVID were also had higher

risk of getting daily life impyramid due to long COVID,
and they report more symptoms of long COVID. Yeah, there's
a lot of interesting stuff in here. I mean, if
people had reported two or more types of these distressors,
it increased their risk by that's how much it could
have increased it. So they're just more susceptible to all
that stuff. And to be clear, having stress and anxiety

and depressionalities doesn't necessarily mean it's going to cause long COVID.
You know, it's not a causal effect per se, but
there is an association about having a lot of these
stressors in your life. So what we did was an
observation study, so we can not say it's causal. But
after you try to account for those demographic factors like age, stacks, raise, ethnicity,

and also those physical conditions. We try to disentangled effect
whether these psychological conditions are more strongly predictors than those
physical conditions. Now, a lot of times when we're talking
about long COVID, as I mentioned, you know, these are
prolonged symptoms after having COVID, A lot of times people
say they they experienced, you know, the brain fog, being

very lethargic, just being super tired, and a lot of
people will say, well, a lot of they're just kind
of carrying this in their head. It's just a psychological
thing for them. And to be clear again that that's
not what the study is showing as well. I mean,
it's not that it's all in your head. It's a
purely psychological thing. There are some physical symptoms that do
persist as well. But just because you've had some of

these symptoms before, it does not mean it's just a
purely psychological phenomen on exactly. So our results should not
be misintegrated as supporting the have of hypothesis that it's
all in our heads. First of all, among those who
develop long COVID, around half of them did not have
any psychological distress at baseline, and most importantly, when we

excluded people who only reported fatigue had it those kind
of psychological and neurological symptoms as their long COVID symptoms,
the results were almost identical. Yeah, I mean, I know
that all of this just really makes more of a
call for giving more people access obviously to mental health care.
We saw people go throughout the pandemic and really suffer

a lot, their mental health suffered a lot, and again,
you know, just having these things before could make this
very novel virus. You know, treating our bodies in a
crazy different way than they've ever felt before could also
exacerbate some of those things. So I know that's been
one of the calls as well, is to pay more
attention to it and have better accessibility for mental health. Yes, exactly,
especially with our findings that these are even stronger predictors

than those well established risk factors of those physical conditions.
We definitely need to understand that mental health conditions and
physical well being are so strongly interconnected, and we need
to make cure accessible and improve the qualitative care for
those who need it. Well, we'll keep an eye out
for more research that comes down the line on long COVID.

As I mentioned, it's kind of one of those big
curiosities still and very tough to uh see what it's
going to happen beforehand, and then also difficulty in treating that.
So we'll keep an eye out for all of that.
Sue and Wang, research fellow at Harvard and lead author
of this latest study on long COVID. Thank you very
much for joining us. Thank you for having me. Have
a good one. I'm Oscar Ramrors and this has been

reopening America. Don't forget effort today's big news stories. You
can check me out on the Daily Dive podcast every
money through Friday, so follow us on iHeart Radio or
wherever you get your podcast
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