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The Impact of Inflammation on Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound effects on mental health, leading to increased cognitive impairment, depression, and anxiety. These symptoms, collectively known as neuro-PASC, are associated with long COVID, which refers to the post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection. This study aimed to investigate the role of inflammatory factors in predicting the severity of neuropsychiatric symptoms in individuals affected by COVID-19.


To conduct this study, 52 adults who tested negative or positive for COVID-19 were recruited. Participants completed self-report questionnaires and provided blood samples for analysis. Those who tested negative were assessed at baseline and during a follow-up visit approximately four weeks later. The research adhered to ethical guidelines and was approved by the relevant Institutional Review Boards.


Demographic analysis revealed no significant difference in age between the COVID negative and positive groups. However, there were notable variations in gender distribution and vaccination status. Participants without COVID-19 reported significantly higher PHQ-4 scores at baseline compared to the follow-up visit.

Previous research has indicated that long COVID often manifests as persistent neuropsychiatric impairments, including cognitive issues, depression, and anxiety. This study aimed to characterize these symptoms and identify biomarkers for disease severity. The findings demonstrate that anxiety symptoms reduced over time in individuals who tested negative for COVID-19. Moreover, decreased anxiety was accompanied by lower levels of inflammatory factors, particularly MIG. Conversely, participants who experienced more severe COVID-19 had significantly higher depression scores. Circulating levels of MIG were found to be predictive of neuro-PASC in adults.

Anxiety and COVID-19

The observed reduction in anxiety symptoms following negative COVID-19 test results aligns with previous research conducted during the pandemic. Anxiety has been identified as a significant concern, affecting a notable portion of the population seeking COVID-19 testing. Fear and anxiety have been identified as potential barriers to the adoption of preventive measures. Therefore, understanding the relationship between anxiety and COVID-19 is crucial for public health interventions.

Inflammation and Mental Health

The study also found a correlation between anxiety severity and pro-inflammatory cytokines. Notably, decreases in circulating levels of pro-inflammatory IL-1β, IL-2, IL-2RA, and MIG were observed in participants who tested negative for COVID-19 during the follow-up visit. This relationship is consistent with research on panic disorder, which has shown increased levels of IL-1β and IL-2R in affected individuals. These findings suggest that inflammation plays a role in anxiety and related mental health conditions.


The COVID-19 pandemic has had adverse effects on mental health, resulting in cognitive impairment, depression, and anxiety. This study sheds light on the relationship between inflammatory factors and neuropsychiatric symptom severity during COVID-19. It highlights the reduction in anxiety symptoms over time in individuals who tested negative for the virus and indicates that decreased anxiety is accompanied by lower levels of inflammatory markers. Moreover, the study confirms that more severe COVID-19 is associated with higher depression scores. The identification of circulating MIG levels as a predictive biomarker for neuro-PASC offers valuable insights for future research and potential therapeutic interventions.