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COVID-19 mortality among veterans with serious mental illness in the veterans health administration.

Bowersox NW, Browne J, Grau PP, Merrill SL, Haderlein TP, Llorente MD, Washington DL. COVID-19 mortality among veterans with serious mental illness in the veterans health administration. Journal of psychiatric research. 2023 Jul 1; 163:222-229.

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Abstract:

OBJECTIVE: Persons with serious mental illness (SMI: schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder) experience increased risk of mortality after contracting COVID-19 based on the results of several international evaluations. However, information about COVID-19 mortality risk among patients with SMI in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has been limited, precluding identification of protective factors. The current evaluation was conducted to assess COVID-19 mortality risk among VHA patients with SMI and to evaluate potential protective factors in mitigating mortality risk following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. METHODS: National VHA administrative data was used to identify all patients (N  =  52,916) who received a positive COVID-19 test result between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. Mortality risk was assessed by SMI status via bivariate comparisons and multivariate regression analyses. RESULTS: In unadjusted analyses, VHA patients with SMI overall and patients with bipolar disorder in particular did not experience increased mortality risk in the 30 days following a positive COVID test, although patients with schizophrenia had increased risk. Within adjusted analyses, patients with schizophrenia remained at increased mortality risk (OR  =  1.38), but at reduced levels relative to previous evaluations in other healthcare settings. CONCLUSIONS: Within VHA, patients with schizophrenia, but not those with bipolar disorder, experience increased mortality risk in the 30 days following a positive COVID-19 test. Large integrated healthcare settings such as VHA may offer services which may protect against COVID-19 mortality for vulnerable groups such as persons with SMI. Additional work is needed to identify practices which may reduce the risk of COVID-19 mortality among persons with SMI.





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