People aged under 65 are more likely to suffer long-term health problems after contracting coronavirus, new research has found.
A US study, published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), found that one in seven adults (14 per cent) aged between 18 and 65 who have had the virus go on to suffer Long Covid.
Researchers found that adults in this age bracket had at least one new condition that required medical care in the three-week to six-month period after catching Covid.
This figure was five per cent higher than a comparison group of people who had never had coronavirus in 2020.
The US research looked at the period from three weeks to six months after initial infection and found that people suffered a range of conditions.
The study used health insurance records to examine data for 266,586 adults aged between 18 and 65 who were diagnosed with coronavirus between January and October last year.
These adults were then matched to three comparison groups of people who did not have coronavirus, including one group diagnosed with a different respiratory infection.
Findings showed that those who had Covid were at greater risk of ongoing health issues compared to those in the other three groups.
These long term conditions included chronic respiratory failure, abnormal heart rhythm, peripheral neuropathy, memory problems, diabetes, liver test abnormalities, anxiety and fatigue.
The figures backup those released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in April, which said almost one in seven people in the UK who test positive for Covid-19 are still suffering symptoms three months later.
The US researchers, including from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said: “Although individuals who were older, had pre-existing conditions, and were admitted to hospital because of Covid-19 were at greatest excess risk (of suffering new conditions), younger adults (aged 50 and under), those with no pre-existing conditions, or those not admitted to hospital for Covid-19 also had an increased risk...”
‘Urgent research’ needed
Researchers warned that as the number of people infected with coronavirus continues to rise worldwide, “the number of survivors with potential sequelae after Covid will continue to grow”.
In a linked editorial, Elaine Maxwell, from the National Institute for Health Research, said: “Healthcare professionals should be alert to the possibility of long Covid in anyone with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.
“How to treat these longer-term consequences is now an urgent research priority.”
What is Long Covid?
“Long Covid” is a term that is used to describe those who have recovered from a coronavirus infection, but are still experiencing some lasting effects, or the usual symptoms have lasted far longer than normally expected.
An estimated 10 per cent of people remain unwell beyond the usual time period, while a smaller proportion can experience symptoms for months, according to a study by King’s College.
The long-term symptoms that some people experience often vary widely and encompass both physical and neurological effects, with these lasting into weeks and even months in some cases.
According to the NHS, common Long Covid symptoms include:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- heart palpitations
- pins and needles
- joint pain
- depression and anxiety
- tinnitus, earaches
- feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
- a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
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