Risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection, severe COVID-19 illness and COVID-19 mortality in people with pre-existing mental disorders: an umbrella review

Federico Bertolini, Anke B. Witteveen, Susanne Young, Pim Cuijpers, Jose Luis Ayuso-Mateos, Corrado Barbui, María Cabello, Camilla Cadorin, Naomi Downes, Daniele Franzoi, Michael Elizabeth Gasior, Brandon Gray, Ann John, Maria Melchior, Mark van Ommeren, Christina Palantza, Marianna Purgato, Judith Van der Waerden, Siyuan Wang, Marit Sijbrandij

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    Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has posed a serious health risk, especially in vulnerable populations. Even before the pandemic, people with mental disorders had worse physical health outcomes compared to the general population. This umbrella review investigated whether having a pre-pandemic mental disorder was associated with worse physical health outcomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Following a pre-registered protocol available on the Open Science Framework platform, we searched Ovid MEDLINE All, Embase (Ovid), PsycINFO (Ovid), CINAHL, and Web of Science up to the 6th of October 2021 for systematic reviews on the impact of COVID-19 on people with pre-existing mental disorders. The following outcomes were considered: risk of contracting the SARS-CoV-2 infection, risk of severe illness, COVID-19 related mortality risk, risk of long-term physical symptoms after COVID-19. For meta-analyses, we considered adjusted odds ratio (OR) as effect size measure. Screening, data extraction and quality assessment with the AMSTAR 2 tool have been done in parallel and duplicate. Results: We included five meta-analyses and four narrative reviews. The meta-analyses reported that people with any mental disorder had an increased risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection (OR: 1.71, 95% CI 1.09–2.69), severe illness course (OR from 1.32 to 1.77, 95%CI between 1.19–1.46 and 1.29–2.42, respectively) and COVID-19 related mortality (OR from 1.38 to 1.52, 95%CI between 1.15–1.65 and 1.20–1.93, respectively) as compared to the general population. People with anxiety disorders had an increased risk of SAR-CoV-2 infection, but not increased mortality. People with mood and schizophrenia spectrum disorders had an increased COVID-19 related mortality but without evidence of increased risk of severe COVID-19 illness. Narrative reviews were consistent with findings from the meta-analyses. Discussion and conclusions: As compared to the general population, there is strong evidence showing that people with pre-existing mental disorders suffered from worse physical health outcomes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and may therefore be considered a risk group similar to people with underlying physical conditions. Factors likely involved include living accommodations with barriers to social distancing, cardiovascular comorbidities, psychotropic medications and difficulties in accessing high-intensity medical care.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number181
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalBMC psychiatry
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2023


    • Covid-19
    • Mental health
    • Mortality
    • Pre-existing mental health disorders
    • Sars-CoV-2
    • Umbrella review

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