HSR&D Citation Abstract
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COVID-19 mortality among veterans with serious mental illness in the veterans health administration.
Bowersox NW, Browne J, Grau PP, Merrill SL, Haderlein TP, Llorente MD, Washington DL. COVID-19 mortality among veterans with serious mental illness in the veterans health administration. Journal of psychiatric research. 2023 Jul 1; 163:222-229.
Persons with serious mental illness (SMI: schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder) experience increased risk of mortality after contracting COVID-19 based on the results of several international evaluations. However, information about COVID-19 mortality risk among patients with SMI in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has been limited, precluding identification of protective factors. The current evaluation was conducted to assess COVID-19 mortality risk among VHA patients with SMI and to evaluate potential protective factors in mitigating mortality risk following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
National VHA administrative data was used to identify all patients (N = 52,916) who received a positive COVID-19 test result between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. Mortality risk was assessed by SMI status via bivariate comparisons and multivariate regression analyses.
In unadjusted analyses, VHA patients with SMI overall and patients with bipolar disorder in particular did not experience increased mortality risk in the 30 days following a positive COVID test, although patients with schizophrenia had increased risk. Within adjusted analyses, patients with schizophrenia remained at increased mortality risk (OR = 1.38), but at reduced levels relative to previous evaluations in other healthcare settings.
Within VHA, patients with schizophrenia, but not those with bipolar disorder, experience increased mortality risk in the 30 days following a positive COVID-19 test. Large integrated healthcare settings such as VHA may offer services which may protect against COVID-19 mortality for vulnerable groups such as persons with SMI. Additional work is needed to identify practices which may reduce the risk of COVID-19 mortality among persons with SMI.