There has been a remarkable increase in the number of people who go to the doctor with memory and concentration problems, according to a large-scale study by the RIVM and the Netherlands Institute for Healthcare Research (Nivel) into the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. In the first quarter, 40 percent more adults aged 45 to 74 went to the GP with cognitive problems than in the same period of 2019, NOS reports.
In the 25 to 44 age group, the increase was 31 percent. Young people under 25 did not seek help more often.
“It is a development that worries us,” said Michel Dukers, professor by special appointment of Crisis, Safety, and Health in Groningen and the research leader on behalf of the 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.”
Among people over the age of 75, 18 percent more reported cognitive problems to their GP than in 2019. “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,” said Duckers.
The researchers haven’t formally proven that the increased cognitive problems are due to the pandemic, but they believe it fits with the growing knowledge about the consequences of the coronavirus. How the virus may cause these problems is not yet fully understood.
One explanation may be that the lockdown measures against Covid-19 led to a faster decline in people with early memory and concentration problems. Researchers at the Alzheimer Center expected at the start of the pandemic that the social restrictions might lead to an increasing group of people with mild memory and concentration problems.
According to Dukers, the virus itself may also be behind the problems. Some people have long-term complaints after a Covid-19 infection, and several studies have shown that memory and concentration problems are common in Long Covid.