Renato Polimanti, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, has received a 3-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to evaluate the association of internalizing disorders with the risk, onset, and vulnerability of COVID-19.
The $3.69 million R01 grant aims to address urgent, time-sensitive mental health research questions related to COVID-19, according to the NIMH.
Many uncertainties about the COVID-19 pandemic remain although understanding of the virus has improved and effective vaccines have been developed, Polimanti said. There are also many consequences to be faced post-pandemic due to the pervasive impact of COVID-19 on individuals and society. Polimanti said the lack of reliable information to guide health care professionals and policymakers has been particularly difficult over the last two years.
“Mental health is surely one of the health domains that are being more strongly affected by COVID-19 outcomes. Isolation, psychological stress, and ‘free-time’ boredom induced by COVID-19 restrictions have been consistently associated with increased internalizing symptoms, including anxiety and depression. Additionally, traumatic experiences related to COVID-19 have been also linked to posttraumatic stress disorder. In a vicious circle, internalizing disorders have been associated with an increased risk of infection and COVID-19 severe symptoms, hospitalization, and mortality,” Polimanti explained.
Researchers plan to identify the latent factors linking the internalizing spectrum, such as anxiety, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and COVID-19 outcomes, including infection, hospitalization, and critical illness, and investigate the regulatory mechanisms. They will also test the interaction of the internalizing spectrum with blood-based transcriptomic and epigenomic changes associated with COVID-19 morbidity and psychological stress.
“Our findings will provide a multi-dimensional perspective on the processes underlying the associations between COVID-19 outcomes and internalizing disorders,” Polimanti said.