A new investigation led by researchers from the University College London and Dartmouth College suggests 14% of Americans had long COVID by the end of 2022. The details of the investigation are published in PLOS One.
Moreover, Americans who report having experienced long COVID said they also experienced more anxiety, low mood, and difficulty with memory.
All data was based on 461,550 respondents to the US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey, conducted from June 2022 to December 2022. Researchers compared survey answers among those who said they have had long COVID, those who said they have had COVID-19 but no lingering symptoms, and those who had never had COVID-19.
Forty-seven percent of survey respondents said they had been previously infected with COVID-19. Of those,13.3% said they had suffered "severe symptoms" during their illness. For people who had COVID that resolved within 3 months, only 7% said they had severe symptoms, compared with 24% for those who had had long COVID in the past and 31% who currently had long COVID.
Little is known about long Covid and its impact on health and wellbeing.
Among the 14% who said they had experienced long COVID, 7% said they were currently experiencing ongoing symptoms.
"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," study co-author Alex Bryson, PhD, MSc, of the University College London Social Research Institute, said in a press release.
Long COVID linked to anxiety
In general women were more likely than men to report long COVID, as were people with lower education levels. The highest rate of long COVID was in West Virginia (18% of the population) and the lowest in Hawaii (11%).
Long COVID was independently associated with low mood, especially anxiety.
"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," said Bryson.
New measure of long COVID severity
In related news, researchers have reached an agreement on how best to measure the severity and impact of long COVID by identifying a "Core Outcome Measure Set" (COMS), according to a new report published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine.
Different countries, public health agencies, and clinics have shifting guidelines for how to identify and classify long COVID, with most relying on the World Health Organization’s assessment that a long COVID patient must suffer new or ongoing symptoms at least 12 weeks after initial infection.
In the present report, 594 individuals from 58 countries participated in an online consensus meeting to develop the COMS. Twelve core outcomes for long COVID patients were identified, including fatigue or exhaustion, pain, post-exertion symptoms, work or occupational and study changes, and cardiovascular, nervous system, cognitive, mental health, and physical outcomes.
"This research has significantly narrowed down the range of preferred outcome measurement instrument options for researchers and clinicians to consider,” said Paula Williamson, PhD, of the University of Liverpool in a press release.
COMS is the first step to developing long COVID treatments, the authors said, because it allows for clinicians to develop measurement tools to codify symptoms.