“The Impact of the Corona Pandemic: Increase in GP Visits for Cognitive Problems Among Adults, According to RIVM and Nivel Research”

“The Impact of the Corona Pandemic: Increase in GP Visits for Cognitive Problems Among Adults, According to RIVM and Nivel Research”

2023-05-31 06:00:02

NOS News

  • Sander Zurhake

    health care editor

  • Sander Zurhake

    health care editor

Since this year, many more adults visit the GP for memory and concentration problems, according to large-scale research by RIVM and the Netherlands Institute for Health Care Research (Nivel) into the consequences of the corona pandemic.

In the first quarter of 2023, adults aged 45 to 74 in particular visited their GP more often with cognitive problems. This is an increase of 40 percent compared to the number of peers who sought help for similar problems at the beginning of 2019.

This is remarkable, because normally this age group visits the GP relatively little for these kinds of problems. But times have changed since the pandemic.

Faster aging

“It is a development that worries us,” says Michel Dückers, professor by special appointment of Crisis, Safety and Health in Groningen and the research leader on behalf of RIVM and Nivel. “We still don’t know much about the long-term effects, but the picture is now emerging that the pandemic can lead to faster aging on a significant scale.”

Because not only people over 45 experience cognitive decline. 31 percent more people between the ages of 25 and 44 visit their GP because of memory problems. The young people (under 25) did not seek help more often.

There was an 18 percent increase among the over-75s. “The increase there is probably less strong because people of this age already had cognitive problems more often than other age groups before the pandemic,” says Dückers.

It has not yet been formally proven that corona is the main cause, but the researchers believe the picture fits the growing knowledge about the consequences of the corona pandemic. How the virus causes all these problems is not yet fully understood.

Often concentration problems

A possible explanation may be that the measures against covid-19 led to a faster decline in people with early memory and concentration problems.

Researchers at the Alzheimer Center recognize a pattern in the figures that they already expected to occur at the start of the corona period: an increasing group of people with mild memory and concentration problems.

An additional explanation, according to research leader Dückers, is that some people have long-term complaints after a covid-19 infection. Several studies show that memory and concentration complaints are common in lung covid.

Other infectious diseases, such as the flu, can also cause these complaints. But several scientific studies show that long-term memory and concentration problems are much more common after a covid-19 infection than after the flu. The figures on more GP visits fit this picture.

Costs employers billions

The findings of the RIVM and Nivel are in line with the results of recent large-scale research by the UMC Groningen, which showed that at least 100,000 people were unable to work for more than a year due to lung covid. The NOS calculated that this loss costs employers more than 8 billion euros per year.

Minister Kuipers will soon announce whether and how much extra budget will be made available for biomedical research into the causes of lung covid. At the moment, Dutch research into lung covid is at a standstill due to lack of funding and lung covid outpatient clinics are closed due to a lack of money.

Patient organizations such as the Long Covid Foundation are now collecting money themselves to ensure that the investigations can continue until the minister opens his wallet. Last week, a million euros was donated by the Care after Work Foundation in Coronazorg.

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