Long Covid: One in 20 people not looking for paid work ‘have long Covid’, new figures suggest

Long Covid is estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.3 million people

One in 20 people in the UK who are not in work and not looking for paid work are suffering from long Covid, new figures have suggested.

The proportion is higher than those who are unemployed, where the level is around one in 29, and those in employment, at one in 30, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Long Covid is estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.3 million people

Those of working age, but who are not looking for paid work are classed as being economically inactive, along with other groups such as students and people who are retired.

It is the first time estimates of long Covid by employment status have been published by the ONS.

The figures are based on self-reported long Covid from a representative sample of people in private households in the four weeks to 2 July.

The estimates suggest that the proportion of people not in work and not looking for work who are experiencing symptoms of long Covid has more than doubled over the past year, rising from 2.4% in August 2021 to 5% in July 2022.

The proportion has jumped from 1.3% to 2.9% among retired people in the same period.

In comparison, the long Covid rate for people in employment has risen more slowly, increasing from 2% to 3.3%, as has the rate for people who are unemployed, from 1.9% to 3.5%.

There is no standard measure for long Covid, but the ONS has used a definition based on symptoms that have persisted for more than four weeks after a first suspected coronavirus infection, where the symptoms could not be explained by something else.

Long Covid is estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.3 million people – nearly three-quarters of those self-reported long Covid – with 369,000 saying their ability to undertake day-to-day activities has been “limited a lot”.

Fatigue continues to be the most common symptom (experienced by 54% of those with self-reported long Covid), followed by shortness of breath (31%), loss of smell (23%) and muscle ache (22%).

What do the figures mean?

The increase in the prevalence of self-reported long Covid among retired people and those not in and not looking for paid work “may be driven by people already in these groups developing long Covid symptoms, or people with long Covid moving into these groups from other employment status categories,” the ONS said.

Further analysis of trends in long Covid by employment status will be published in the future, added the ONS.