Depression, loneliness linked to increased risk of hospitalization after COVID-19, NIH-funded study suggests

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Thursday, May 19, 2022


People who reported feeling anxious, depressed or lonely in a survey had a greater chance of being hospitalized after being diagnosed with COVID-19, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health suggests. The study, which analyzed survey data from more than 54,000 nurses and their descendants, was conducted by Andrea L. Roberts, Ph.D., of Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues. It appears in psychological medicine.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, just over 3,600 study participants tested positive for SAR-CoV-2 infection. Those who reported chronic (long-term) depression before the pandemic were 72% more likely to be hospitalized after their COVID-19 diagnosis. Those who scored high on the likely indicators of depression (Probable Depression) at baseline were 81% more likely to be hospitalized than those who didn’t. High concern about COVID-19 was associated with a 79% increased risk of hospitalization. Additionally, those who reported persistent feelings of loneliness were 81% more likely to be hospitalized than those who did not. Feelings of anxiety and stress were not associated with a higher risk of hospitalization.

The authors said their findings suggest that psychological risk factors can increase the risk of hospitalization just as much as physical risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. They called for additional research to determine whether treatment to reduce depression and other forms of mental distress, on top of standard treatments, could reduce the severity of COVID-19.

NIH funding for the study was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and National Cancer Institute.


Valerie Maholmes, Ph.D., director of the NICHD’s Division of Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness, is available for comments.


Wang, S. Depression, worry, and loneliness are associated with subsequent risk of hospitalization for COVID-19: A prospective study. psychological medicine. 2022.

About the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD): NICHD conducts research and education to understand human development, improve reproductive health, improve the lives of children and adolescents, and optimize skills for all. Visit for more information.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH):NIH, the country’s medical research agency, comprises 27 institutes and centers and is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The NIH is the primary federal agency that conducts and supports basic, clinical, and translational medical research investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for common and rare diseases. For more information about the NIH and its programs, visit

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