Although long COVID has emerged as a major public health concern, it has not yet been clearly identified as a clinical condition.
A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE has found that 14% of Americans report having suffered from long COVID since the pandemic and that its incidence varies significantly among different regions of the country, sex, and ethnicity.1
Although long COVID has emerged as a major public health concern, it has not yet been clearly identified as a clinical condition. However, new research is continually helping to create a more comprehensive view of factors associated with the condition and its health consequences.
“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,” Alex Bryson, a co-author on the study, said in a release.2 “Those who have ever had long COVID remain more likely 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.”
Investigators from the University College of London conducted an observational study to review data on the prevalence of long COVID, its incidence, and the relationship between the condition and physical and mental health problems. Data was gathered from the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey between June 2022 and December 2022.
The study cohort included 461550 Americans who filled out the survey, which was designed to obtain data on how people’s lives were impacted by COVID-19. The questionnaire consisted of 14 questions on topics like COVID-19 vaccinations, employment, education, food sufficiency, physical and mental health, and long COVID symptoms and impact.
Investigators found that 3 in 10 respondents who had COVID-19 went on to develop long COVID, which was defined as symptoms lasting longer than 3 months. Symptoms included fatigue, difficulty thinking, memory problems, muscle pain, and difficulty breathing. For those who had or currently have long COVID, 24% and 31% said that their symptoms were severe, respectively.
The incidence of long COVID was seen to vary significantly across the country. Only 11% of Americans in Hawaii suffered from the condition, compared to 18% in West Virginia. Additionally, long COVID impacted women more than men, was higher among Whites than Blacks or Asians, and declined with higher education and income.
“Notwithstanding these new findings much remains to be learned about the nature, determinants and consequences of long COVID which will only be revealed in time with the advent of new data,” the authors concluded. “In particular, exploiting longitudinal data tracking individuals over time could be particularly informative since in the current study the cross-sectional nature of the data makes it hard to make causal inferences about the impact of Long COVID and the potential value of vaccinations.”