A large study released Wednesday found 37 percent of patients developed at least one long-term COVID-19 symptom three to six months after their infection, as scientists work to pin down the prevalence of the mysterious condition.
The University of Oxford and the National Institute for Health Research-Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre determined that long COVID-19 symptoms were more common among people who were hospitalized and slightly more frequent among women.
Researchers analyzed data from more than 270,000 coronavirus survivors to identify the “nine core” long-term symptoms, including anxiety and depression, abnormal breathing, abdominal symptoms, pain and fatigue.
Older people and men were more likely to report breathing difficulties and cognitive problems in the study, while younger people and women documented more headaches, abdominal symptoms and anxiety and depression.
The study did not examine the causes, severity and duration of long COVID-19 symptoms. But it did compare long COVID-19 symptoms to those recovering from influenza and found people were 1.5 times more likely to develop the symptoms after COVID-19 infection.
Researchers said the study exemplified how many coronavirus survivors could be dealing with ongoing symptoms and called for more investigation.
“Research of different kinds is urgently needed to understand why not everyone recovers rapidly and fully from COVID-19,” Oxford psychiatry professor Paul Harrison said.
“We need to identify the mechanisms underlying the diverse symptoms that can affect survivors,” he added. “This information will be essential if the long-term health consequences of COVID-19 are to be prevented or treated effectively.”
Scientists have been digging into the enigma of long COVID-19 as patients have reported enduring symptoms months after their diagnosis.
A “limited” study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this month found one-third of participants in Long Beach, Calif., reported at least one long-term COVID-19 symptom two months after their positive test.
With more than 43 million cases in the U.S., these estimates suggest millions of Americans could be experiencing long COVID-19 symptoms.