November 6, 2023: One in seven people in the US has had long Covid by the end of 2022, according to a study by British and American researchers.
At least 14% of Americans have had long Covid symptoms such as anxiety and low mood, an increased likelihood of continued physical mobility problems and challenges with memory, concentration or understanding, researchers at the University College of London and US-based Dartmouth College found.
The researchers reviewed data from 461,550 people who responded to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey from June to December 2022.
They compared people who said they had never had Covid-19, with those who had had a Covid-19 infection without lingering symptoms, and those who currently or previously had long Covid.
The researchers found that 47% of people surveyed reported having had Covid-19 at some point, while 14% of the total had had long Covid at some point, half of whom still had long Covid symptoms when answering the survey.
The researchers followed the World Health Organization’s definition of long Covid as the continuation or development of new symptoms at least three months after the initial infection.
The risk of anxiety and low mood appeared to be lower for those who have been vaccinated, including for those who have had long Covid, according to the study published in Plos One.
“Little is known about long Covid and its impact on health and wellbeing, but there is a growing body of evidence that many people experience persistent and concerning symptoms,” said co-author Professor Alex Bryson at the UCL Social Research Institute.
“Here, we have found that long Covid continues to affect millions of people in the US, with some groups much more affected than others.”
The findings suggest that one in three people who were infected with the Covid-19 virus may end up with long Covid symptoms.
Physical mobility problems
The researchers cautioned that a limitation of their study was that it relies on people self-reporting symptoms, while some people surveyed may have had Covid-19 without knowing it.
They found that people who had ever had long Covid were more likely to have negative affect such as physical mobility problems and problems dressing and bathing.
They also found that long Covid was more common in women than men, with rates also elevated among white people, middle-aged people, and people with lower incomes or educational attainment.
It was most common in West Virginia — 18% of the population — and least common in Hawaii 11%.
Long Covid was also much more common among people who had severe symptoms during the initial Covid-19 infection, as 31% of people who reported currently having long Covid said they initially had severe Covid-19 symptoms.
About seven million people have died globally due to the virus which is still prevalent in mutated forms.