The current situation is extremely stressful, with everybody stuck at home, unable to meet their friends or family who live miles away. Millions of citizens in the United States are also currently unemployed, adding to the stress and worry due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, one study from London suggests that people with higher levels of cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, have an increased risk of death due to COVID-19.
Stress Levels Could Indicate Severity of COVID-19
In a report by Metro, the study is done by the researchers from Imperial College London.
The team found out that people who are COVID-19 positive have a higher level of cortisol than those who are not infected.
For those who don't know, cortisol levels are higher when you experience stress due to environmental factors and other stressful situations.
It is released by the adrenal glands and spurs changes in the body, including our heart function, metabolism, and, most of all, our immune system--and if our immune system weakens, we are more likely to catch severe cases of various diseases, including coronavirus.
Another Benchmark of the Virus
According to the report, this is the first time cortisol is being used as a benchmark for the virus.
Nevertheless, the researchers believe their study could help doctors identify who needs to be admitted as soon as possible and provide immediate care.
"We potentially have another simple marker to use alongside oxygen saturation levels to help us identify which patients need to be admitted immediately, and which may not," said Professor Waljit Dhillo, the head of the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism from Imperial College London.
"Having an early indicator of which patients may deteriorate more quickly will help us with providing the best level of care as quickly as possible, as well as helping manage the pressure on the NHS," the professor further added.
Observing Patients Within London
To acquire the results, the researchers studied a total of 535 patients in three hospitals around London, including St. Mary's, Charing Cross, and Hammersmith, with 403 positive for COVID-19 among the group.
They acquired the cortisol levels of all the patients and found that those with COVID-19 had cortisol levels that went up to 3,241--something that scientists can only describe as "worryingly high."
"From an endocrinologist's perspective, it makes sense that those COVID-19 patients who are the sickest will have higher levels of cortisol, but these levels are worryingly high," Dhillo added.
In context, the normal cortisol level should only be around 100 to 200 nm/L and should reach zero when we are sleeping, while a level of 1,000 nm/L or more is already considered considerably high.
These levels are mostly only seen with people who have trauma or are severely unwell.
In the study, which is published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, coronavirus patients with a baseline cortisol level of 744 or less survived on average 36 days, while those with levels over 744 had an average survival of only 15 days.
This concludes that people with a higher level of cortisol or stress hormone have an increased chance of dying from the infection due to its complications.
Now, the team hopes to expand their study to a larger scale for further research.