One in Seven People in the U.S. Report Having Long-COVID
A new large-scale investigation suggests that at least 14 percent of Americans had experienced Long-COVID by the end of 2022. The study, published in PLOS ONE, also highlighted a correlation between long-COVID and increased instances of anxiety, low mood, mobility issues, and cognitive challenges.
Long-COVID, as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), refers to the continuation or onset of new symptoms at least three months after the initial infection. For this investigation, researchers at the University College of London (UCL) in the United Kingdom and Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, sought to better understand the scope of long-COVID and its symptoms.
The study reviewed responses from 461,550 individuals who participated in the United States Census Bureau's Household Pulse Survey between June and December 2022. The participants were categorized into three groups: those who reported never contracting COVID-19, those who had experienced COVID-19 without enduring symptoms, and individuals who were either currently suffering from or had a history of long-COVID.
According to the study, nearly half of those surveyed reported having COVID-19. The data indicated that 14 percent of respondents experienced long-COVID, with half of them still showing symptoms. The analysis also revealed that long-COVID was more prevalent among women, white individuals, middle-aged people, and those with lower incomes or educational levels. Geographically, West Virginia reported the highest rates at 18 percent, while Hawaii had the lowest at 11 percent. Additionally, those who experienced severe symptoms during their initial COVID-19 infection were more likely to develop long-COVID.
"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 Alex Bryson, PhD, MSc, of the UCL Social Research Institute. "Here, we have found that long Covid continues to affect millions of people in the U.S., with some groups much more affected than others. Those who have ever had long-COVID remain likelier to report low mood, challenges in carrying out daily tasks, and challenges with memory, concentration, and understanding, compared to people who have never had long-COVID."
Notably, the study found that vaccinated individuals had a lower risk of anxiety and low mood, including those who had suffered from long-COVID. However, the researchers cautioned about the limitations of the study, which relied on self-reported symptoms, and the possibility that some participants might have been unaware of their COVID-19 infection.
Although these results shed light on the prevalence of long-COVID, researchers expressed the need for additional studies to better understand the mechanisms of the condition and its symptoms. Moreover, they said comprehensive longitudinal studies are crucial to gain insights into how vaccinations might influence the risk and severity of long-COVID.