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      Indirect acute effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical and mental health in the UK: a population-based study


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          There are concerns that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK might have worsened physical and mental health, and reduced use of health services. However, the scale of the problem is unquantified, impeding development of effective mitigations. We aimed to ascertain what has happened to general practice contacts for acute physical and mental health outcomes during the pandemic.


          Using de-identified electronic health records from the Clinical Research Practice Datalink (CPRD) Aurum (covering 13% of the UK population), between 2017 and 2020, we calculated weekly primary care contacts for selected acute physical and mental health conditions: anxiety, depression, self-harm (fatal and non-fatal), severe mental illness, eating disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, acute alcohol-related events, asthma exacerbation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation, acute cardiovascular events (cerebrovascular accident, heart failure, myocardial infarction, transient ischaemic attacks, unstable angina, and venous thromboembolism), and diabetic emergency. Primary care contacts included remote and face-to-face consultations, diagnoses from hospital discharge letters, and secondary care referrals, and conditions were identified through primary care records for diagnoses, symptoms, and prescribing. Our overall study population included individuals aged 11 years or older who had at least 1 year of registration with practices contributing to CPRD Aurum in the specified period, but denominator populations varied depending on the condition being analysed. We used an interrupted time-series analysis to formally quantify changes in conditions after the introduction of population-wide restrictions (defined as March 29, 2020) compared with the period before their introduction (defined as Jan 1, 2017 to March 7, 2020), with data excluded for an adjustment-to-restrictions period (March 8–28).


          The overall population included 9 863 903 individuals on Jan 1, 2017, and increased to 10 226 939 by Jan 1, 2020. Primary care contacts for almost all conditions dropped considerably after the introduction of population-wide restrictions. The largest reductions were observed for contacts for diabetic emergencies (odds ratio 0·35 [95% CI 0·25–0·50]), depression (0·53 [0·52–0·53]), and self-harm (0·56 [0·54–0·58]). In the interrupted time-series analysis, with the exception of acute alcohol-related events (0·98 [0·89–1·10]), there was evidence of a reduction in contacts for all conditions (anxiety 0·67 [0·66–0·67], eating disorders 0·62 [0·59–0·66], obsessive-compulsive disorder [0·69 [0·64–0·74]], self-harm 0·56 [0·54–0·58], severe mental illness 0·80 [0·78–0·83], stroke 0·59 [0·56–0·62], transient ischaemic attack 0·63 [0·58–0·67], heart failure 0·62 [0·60–0·64], myocardial infarction 0·72 [0·68–0·77], unstable angina 0·72 [0·60–0·87], venous thromboembolism 0·94 [0·90–0·99], and asthma exacerbation 0·88 [0·86–0·90]). By July, 2020, except for unstable angina and acute alcohol-related events, contacts for all conditions had not recovered to pre-lockdown levels.


          There were substantial reductions in primary care contacts for acute physical and mental conditions following the introduction of restrictions, with limited recovery by July, 2020. Further research is needed to ascertain whether these reductions reflect changes in disease frequency or missed opportunities for care. Maintaining health-care access should be a key priority in future public health planning, including further restrictions. The conditions we studied are sufficiently severe that any unmet need will have substantial ramifications for the people with the conditions as well as health-care provision.


          Wellcome Trust Senior Fellowship, Health Data Research UK.

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          Most cited references55

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          OpenSAFELY: factors associated with COVID-19 death in 17 million patients

          COVID-19 has rapidly impacted on mortality worldwide. 1 There is unprecedented urgency to understand who is most at risk of severe outcomes, requiring new approaches for timely analysis of large datasets. Working on behalf of NHS England we created OpenSAFELY: a secure health analytics platform covering 40% of all patients in England, holding patient data within the existing data centre of a major primary care electronic health records vendor. Primary care records of 17,278,392 adults were pseudonymously linked to 10,926 COVID-19 related deaths. COVID-19 related death was associated with: being male (hazard ratio 1.59, 95%CI 1.53-1.65); older age and deprivation (both with a strong gradient); diabetes; severe asthma; and various other medical conditions. Compared to people with white ethnicity, black and South Asian people were at higher risk even after adjustment for other factors (HR 1.48, 1.29-1.69 and 1.45, 1.32-1.58 respectively). We have quantified a range of clinical risk factors for COVID-19 related death in the largest cohort study conducted by any country to date. OpenSAFELY is rapidly adding further patients’ records; we will update and extend results regularly.
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            A nationwide survey of psychological distress among Chinese people in the COVID-19 epidemic: implications and policy recommendations

            The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) epidemic emerged in Wuhan, China, spread nationwide and then onto half a dozen other countries between December 2019 and early 2020. The implementation of unprecedented strict quarantine measures in China has kept a large number of people in isolation and affected many aspects of people’s lives. It has also triggered a wide variety of psychological problems, such as panic disorder, anxiety and depression. This study is the first nationwide large-scale survey of psychological distress in the general population of China during the COVID-19 epidemic.
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              Cardiovascular Considerations for Patients, Health Care Workers, and Health Systems During the COVID-19 Pandemic

              The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 that has significant implications for the cardiovascular care of patients. First, those with COVID-19 and pre-existing cardiovascular disease have an increased risk of severe disease and death. Second, infection has been associated with multiple direct and indirect cardiovascular complications including acute myocardial injury, myocarditis, arrhythmias, and venous thromboembolism. Third, therapies under investigation for COVID-19 may have cardiovascular side effects. Fourth, the response to COVID-19 can compromise the rapid triage of non-COVID-19 patients with cardiovascular conditions. Finally, the provision of cardiovascular care may place health care workers in a position of vulnerability as they become hosts or vectors of virus transmission. We hereby review the peer-reviewed and pre-print reports pertaining to cardiovascular considerations related to COVID-19 and highlight gaps in knowledge that require further study pertinent to patients, health care workers, and health systems.

                Author and article information

                Lancet Digit Health
                Lancet Digit Health
                The Lancet. Digital Health
                Elsevier Ltd
                18 February 2021
                April 2021
                18 February 2021
                : 3
                : 4
                : e217-e230
                [a ]Department of Non-Communicable Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
                [b ]Department of Health Services Research and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
                [c ]Unit of Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
                [d ]National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, London, UK
                [e ]Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
                [f ]Department of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø—The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway
                [g ]Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, UK
                [h ]Health Data Research UK, London, UK
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence to: Dr Kathryn Mansfield, Department of Non-Communicable Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT, UK kathryn.mansfield@ 123456lshtm.ac.uk

                Joint first authors

                © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY 4.0 license

                This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).



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