People most likely to suffer from long COVID revealed by major study

Watch: What is long COVID?

A major new study has revealed who is most likely to suffer the symptoms of “long COVID”.

Long COVID is the side effects – such as fatigue, coughs and headaches – people experience even after the infection has gone.

New Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures have estimated 1.1 million people across the UK were experiencing long COVID as of 6 March.

Here is a breakdown, based on “socio-demographic characteristics” of people who self-reported long COVID, of who is most likely to experience these side effects.

  • The prevalence of long COVID in the survey was greatest among people who are aged 35 to 49 (2.5%)

  • The ONS said the prevalence rate was “statistically significantly higher” in females (1.9%) than males (1.5%)

  • People living in the most deprived areas are more likely to suffer long COVID (2.1%), compared to 1.4% who live in the least deprived areas. The ONS said this follows past trends relating to coronavirus and deprivation

  • In terms of occupation, health and social care workers (3.6% and 3.1%) experienced the highest prevalence of long COVID, with the ONS pointing out this could be due to higher exposure to the virus itself, as well as possible increased awareness of the long COVID side effects

  • The ONS said people with a pre-existing health condition that affects their day-to-day activities a lot (4%) or a little (3.4%) had “statistically significantly higher” prevalence of long COVID compared to people with a non-limiting health condition (2.2%)

The overall report found almost one in seven people who test positive for COVID are still suffering symptoms three months later.

Among a sample of more than 20,000 people who tested positive for the virus between April last year and March this year, 13.7% continued to experience symptoms for at least 12 weeks.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, said the figures revealed an "urgent need for the government to step up support for those affected".

While there is no universally agreed definition of long COVID, the NHS advises people to see a GP if they are worried about symptoms four weeks after having the virus.

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Moran said: "The government must end the current postcode lottery of rehabilitation services and ensure all those who need long-term treatment can access it.

“We also need a compensation scheme for key workers with long COVID, who have worked tirelessly on the frontline against the pandemic and are now paying a heavy price.

“The government must recognise long COVID as an occupational disease and provide formal guidance to employers, to ensure that workers suffering symptoms are treated fairly and given proper support.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock later said he is “very worried” about the impact of long COVID, and that the government is investing more in tackling and understanding the condition.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 17: British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock leaves 10 Downing Street in London, United Kingdom on March 17, 2021. (Photo by David Cliff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Matt Hancock (David Cliff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

He told Sky News: "[Long COVID is] one of the many damaging problems of this virus.

“We’re putting more research money into tackling and understanding long COVID because it appears to be several different syndromes.

“This is a very strange, very dangerous virus and it’s yet another reason for everybody to be cautious."

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