TOPLINE:Emergency department (ED) visits for schizophrenia spectrum disorders increased by 15% in the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study showed. Researchers said the findings suggested a need for social policies that strengthen mental health prevention systems.
METHODOLOGY:Investigators obtained data from the University of California (UC) Health Data Warehouse on ED visits at five large UC health systems.They captured the ICD-10 codes relating to schizophrenia spectrum disorders for ED visits from January 2016 to December 2021 for patients aged 18 years and older.TAKEAWAY:Between January 2016 and December 2021, there were 377,800 psychiatric ED visits, 10% of which involved schizophrenia spectrum disorders.The mean number of visits per month for schizophrenia spectrum disorders rose from 520 before the pandemic to 558 visits per month after March 2020.Compared to pre-pandemic numbers and after controlling for visits for other psychiatric disorders, there were 70.5 additional visits (P=.02) for schizophrenia spectrum disorders at 1 month and 74.9 additional visits (P=.005) at 3 months following the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in California.Investigators noted that prior studies indicated that COVID-19 infections may induce psychosis in some individuals, which could have been one underlying factor in the spike in cases.IN PRACTICE:”The COVID-19 pandemic draws attention to the vulnerability of patients with schizophrenia to macrosocial shocks, underscoring the importance of social policies related to income support, housing, and health insurance for future emergency preparedness and the need to strengthen mental healthcare systems,” the authors wrote.
SOURCE:Parvita Singh, PhD, of The Ohio State University in Columbus, led the study, which was published online on December 27, 2023, in JAMA Network Open.
LIMITATIONS:Data used in the study excluded patients younger than 18 years. In addition, there was no analysis for trends by age or sex, which could have added valuable information to the study, the authors wrote. There was also no way to identify patients with newly diagnosed schizophrenia.
DISCLOSURES:The study was funded through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Study disclosures are noted in the original study.
Source : Medscape