The Government-funded REACT study has indicated as many as two million people may have suffered with long Covid in England.
Around one fifth of 508,707 participating adults reported having had a Covid symptoms, with over one third of these reporting persistent symptoms for 12 weeks or more, and around a 10th describing the symptoms as severe.
The researchers, from Imperial College London, found people with persistent symptoms broadly fell into two groups with symptoms described as either:
- tiredness and muscle aches; or
- shortness of breath affecting normal activities, tightness in chest, and chest pain (with more people reporting that they had severe symptoms).
On prevalence of long Covid, the study found that it:
- increases with age, with a 3.5% increase in likelihood in each decade of life
- is more common among women, people who are overweight or obese, who smoke, live in deprived areas, or had been admitted to hospital
- is less prevalent among people of Asian ethnicity.
The study comes as NHS England published the details of its new 50p/patient long Covid DES earlier this week.
REACT programme director Professor Paul Elliott said: ‘Our findings do paint a concerning picture of the longer-term health consequences of Covid-19, which need to be accounted for in policy and planning.
‘Long Covid is still poorly understood but we hope through our research that we can contribute to better identification and management of this condition, which our data and others’ suggest may ultimately affect millions of people in the UK alone.’
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Long Covid can have a lasting and debilitating impact on the lives of those affected. Studies like this help us to rapidly build our understanding of the impact of the condition and we are using these findings and other new research to develop support and treatments.
‘We are learning more about long Covid all the time and have made £50 million of research funding available to support innovative projects, with clinics established across the country to help improve the treatment available.’