As many as one in six (17%) middle-aged people who reported having had a Covid-19 infection also reported having long Covid symptoms, a study has shown.
This number fell to one in 13 (7.8%) among younger adults, suggesting that the risk for long Covid symptoms increases with age.
Led by King’s College London and published today (24 June), the findings were based on anonymised data from 1.2 million primary health records across the UK, with an additional 45,096 participants with self-reported symptoms not reported to a GP.
The researchers also found that women are 50% more likely to report experiencing long Covid symptoms than men.
The study also found that increased risk of reporting symptoms is linked both to poorer pre-pandemic mental and physical health, and with a previous diagnosis of asthma.
Dr Dylan Williams, first author on the study, said: ‘Next we need to identify the predispositions that might explain, for example, why women or individuals with asthma appear to be at higher risk. Could a liability to suffer from autoimmunity or allergies play a role? Establishing concrete research avenues to go down will eventually lead to benefits for people with long Covid.’
The study’s findings are supported by recent data, published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this month, which had indicated women were 1.3 times more likely to report symptoms than men.
That same dataset showed that the number of people with self-reported long Covid lasting at least 12 weeks has increased by a 25% to 869,000, between March and May of this year.
Two million with symptoms lasting beyond 12 weeks
Meanwhile, more than 2 million people in England are thought to have had long Covid-19 symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks, according to a separate study.
Based on self-reported data from 508,707 adults aged 18 and over – and which was collected between September 2020 and February 2021 – found that almost a third of people (30.5%) with at least one symptom lasting 12 weeks or more reported having had ‘severe’ Covid-19 symptoms.
The REACT-2 study, led by Imperial College London, and also published today, also found that prevalence of increases with age, with a 3.5% increase in likelihood in each decade of life.
It also found it to be more common among women, people who are overweight or obese, who smoke, live in deprived areas, or had been admitted to hospital.
Earlier this week, NHS England published the details of its new long Covid enhanced service.
Meanwhile, NHSE recently confirmed GP practices will receive £30m to improve diagnosis and care for patients with long Covid as part of a £100m investment to expand care for the condition.