Association of COVID19-induced anosmia and ageusia with depression and suicidal ideation


Background: Clinical reports from patients suffering from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) reflect a high prevalence of sensory deprivation or loss pertaining to smell (dysosmia/anosmia) and/or taste (dysgeusia/ageusia). Given the importance of the senses to daily functioning and personal experience, the mental health consequences of these symptoms warrant further attention. Methods: A cohort of Reddit users posting within the /r/covid19positive subforum (N = 15,821) was leveraged to analyze instantaneous risk of transition to a state of suicidal ideation or depression using Cox proportional-hazards models. Risk transition was defined by posts made in suicide- or depression-related forums, or mentions of relevant phrases with and without mention of anosmia/ageusia in /r/covid19positive. Self-diagnosis of COVID-19 was also modeled as a separate and simultaneous predictor of mental health risk. Results: Mention of anosmia/ageusia was significantly associated with transition to a risk state. Users with a history of anosmia/ageusia-related posts and who self-identified as COVID-19 positive had 30% higher instantaneous risk relative to others. The highest increase in instantaneous risk of suicidal ideation or depression occurred more than 100 days after first posting in /r/covid19positive. Limitations: Use of self-diagnosed disease as well as a broad array of anosmia/ageusia-related terminology may entail both information bias and overestimates of symptom incidence. Conclusions: The specific effects of COVID-19 on the senses may have long-term implications for patient mental health well-being beyond the primary recovery period. Future work is needed to investigate the longitudinal mental health burden of residual COVID-19 symptom presentation.

Journal of Affective Disorders Reports