A Bangladesh study doesn’t show that depression follows Covid-19

15 February 2021
What was claimed

Research says that nearly half of people who catch Covid develop depression afterwards.

Our verdict

This is not what the research says. It measured rates of depression among Covid survivors—but not whether they developed depression after catching the disease.

“Half of Covid victims go on to suffer depression, says study,”

The Telegraph, 15 February 2021

The Telegraph has muddled up the meaning of a scientific study on depression among people who have had Covid-19. The study in question explicitly said that its findings didn’t necessarily reflect the impact of Covid-19.

The newspaper said: “Nearly half of people struck down with Covid-19 also develop depression, according to new research.”

The research in question surveyed the mental health of 1,002 people in Bangladesh who had tested positive for Covid at some point in the past. These people were a self-selected sample, meaning they heard about the survey and wanted to take part, so they might not be representative of people as a whole.

The study found that about 48% had moderate or severe depression.

However, it does not tell us that they “go on” to develop depression as a result of catching Covid, or even that they developed it after catching Covid. The research doesn’t compare its findings with depression rates among these people before they got the disease, nor with people who hadn’t been infected at all, nor with the normal background rate of depression in Bangladesh (which may have risen during the pandemic).

A press release from Anglia Ruskin University, which worked on the research, does not say that Covid was found to cause depression. One of the study authors says it describes people suffering from depression “alongside” Covid.

The researchers themselves say in the paper: “The findings may not reflect the impact of COVID-19, especially for depression, which may have developed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

There is evidence that rates of depression have increased in Great Britain and elsewhere during the pandemic. There is other evidence that people may be at higher risk of developing mental health problems after recovering from Covid.

The extent of this and why it might happen are not yet fully understood, however.

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