Anxiety and depression in COVID-19 survivors: Role of inflammatory and clinical predictors

COVID-19 BioB Outpatient Clinic Study group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Infection-triggered perturbation of the immune system could induce psychopathology, and psychiatric sequelae were observed after previous coronavirus outbreaks. The spreading of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic could be associated with psychiatric implications. We investigated the psychopathological impact of COVID-19 in survivors, also considering the effect of clinical and inflammatory predictors. We screened for psychiatric symptoms 402 adults surviving COVID-19 (265 male, mean age 58), at one month follow-up after hospital treatment. A clinical interview and a battery of self-report questionnaires were used to investigate post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, insomnia, and obsessive-compulsive (OC) symptomatology. We collected sociodemographic information, clinical data, baseline inflammatory markers and follow-up oxygen saturation levels. A significant proportion of patients self-rated in the psychopathological range: 28% for PTSD, 31% for depression, 42% for anxiety, 20% for OC symptoms, and 40% for insomnia. Overall, 56% scored in the pathological range in at least one clinical dimension. Despite significantly lower levels of baseline inflammatory markers, females suffered more for both anxiety and depression. Patients with a positive previous psychiatric diagnosis showed increased scores on most psychopathological measures, with similar baseline inflammation. Baseline systemic immune-inflammation index (SII), which reflects the immune response and systemic inflammation based on peripheral lymphocyte, neutrophil, and platelet counts, positively associated with scores of depression and anxiety at follow-up. PTSD, major depression, and anxiety, are all high-burden non-communicable conditions associated with years of life lived with disability. Considering the alarming impact of COVID-19 infection on mental health, the current insights on inflammation in psychiatry, and the present observation of worse inflammation leading to worse depression, we recommend to assess psychopathology of COVID-19 survivors and to deepen research on inflammatory biomarkers, in order to diagnose and treat emergent psychiatric conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-600
Number of pages7
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • Anxiety
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 survivors
  • Depression
  • Inflammation
  • Insomnia
  • Mental health
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Psychopathology
  • PTSD

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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