When examining the link between mental health illness and a COVID-19 diagnosis, a recent study by the Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) found that those with a mental illness have a higher chance of contracting the virus.1

Further, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the addition of “mood disorders, including depression and schizophrenia spectrum disorders" to its list of medical conditions associated with a higher risk of severe COVID-19. This decision was made following a variety of studies, including the WPA study cited above, that suggests a strong link between mental health disorders and a higher chance of infection.2

Patients with a history of mental illness were 50 percent more likely to die from COVID-19 compared with patients with no history of mental illness, according to a report by the Advisory Board.3 When looking deeper into the links between mental health and COVID-19, Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, noted three outstanding factors that contribute to a higher likelihood of diagnosis.

These factors include:

  1. Behavioral illnesses can often alter people's behaviors. In doing so, they may be less likely to engage in preventative actions such as social distancing or masking that would help protect them from infection.
  2. Individuals with mental illness often have poorer overall health and have multiple comorbidities. This puts these individuals at a greater risk for negative outcomes following a COVID-19 diagnosis.
  3. Individuals with mental and behavioral illnesses tend to be among the most isolated in society. This isolation takes a great toll on one’s physical health —ultimately putting them at a higher risk of chronic illnesses and premature mortality from COVID-19.

Patient access is a major barrier often keeping patients from receiving needed behavioral health treatment. Behavioral health program integration can help reduce this barrier and expand access to the 13 million people currently experiencing mental illness – 40% of which lack essential access to this form of care.3

When a hospital implements or expands behavioral health programs into their care continuum their patients, entire hospital and community experience the benefits. One way hospitals are efficiently and effectively expanding their services is through a strategic contract management or joint-venture partnership. This helps to relieve the burden of starting a program from the ground up or strategically expanding one to fit the needs of a larger patient population.

To learn how your hospital can successfully integrate a behavioral health program into your care continuum, visit KindredBehavioralHealth.com.


  1. Wang, Q. Q., Xu, R., & Volkow, N. D. (2020, October 7). Increased risk of Covid‐19 infection and mortality in people with mental disorders: Analysis from Electronic Health Records in the United States. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/wps.20806.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, October 14). Underlying medical conditions associated with higher risk for severe COVID-19: Information for Healthcare Providers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-care/underlyingconditions.html.
  3. Advisory Board. (2021, November 23). Why is mental illness tied to worse covid-19 outcomes? Advisory Board. Retrieved December 1, 2021, from https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2021/11/23/mental-health-covid
By Kindred Behavioral Health