Why people with mental illness are at higher risk of COVID

Even before the federal government’s recent decision last week to authorize COVID-19 boosters all adults, it had already recommended them in October for people with certain high-risk conditions. Along with with illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, that list included mental health conditions.

The decision to prioritize people with psychiatric diagnoses in the early rollout of boosters came after a growing number of studies linked mental health disorders with higher risk of both COVID-19 infection and of serious outcomes.

Last year, researchers analyzed data from five hospitals in the Yale New Haven Health System to see how people with a mental health diagnosis who were hospitalized with COVID-19 fared compared to others.

“What we found was we had a higher level of mortality for those that had a prior psychiatric history,” says psychiatrist Dr. Luming Li, who was working on her Master’s degree at Yale University at the time.

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