1 in 5 American adults who contracted COVID-19 now have long COVID

AAccording to new federal data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), about 7.5% of American adults, or about 20 million people, are currently living with long COVID symptoms.

This finding, from the Household Pulse Survey conducted in partnership with the US Census Bureau, is based on self-reported data from approximately 62,000 US adults surveyed in June. More than 40% of respondents said they had already had COVID-19. And about one in five of those people said they still had long-lasting COVID symptoms, defined as new health issues — like fatigue, cognitive issues, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and more. – for at least three months after infection.

Although there is no single hallmark symptom of Long COVID, many long haulers report extreme fatigue and crashes after physical activity, cognitive dysfunction, neurological issues and chronic pain, among other health issues. health.

In the NCHS survey, the prevalence of Long COVID varied widely by demographics. As other studies have suggested, women were more likely than men to report current symptoms of Long COVID: 9.4% did so, compared to 5.5% of men.

The prevalence also varied by racial, sexual and gender identities. About 9% of Hispanic adults reported long-lasting symptoms, followed by 7.5% of white adults, nearly 7% of black adults, and nearly 4% of Asian adults. Strikingly, an estimated 15% of transgender adults have current symptoms of Long COVID, according to the report. About 12% of bisexual adults have long COVID symptoms, compared to about 7% of heterosexual, gay or lesbian people.

Contrary to previous research from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), young adults were more likely than older adults to report long COVID symptoms. Adults aged 50 to 59 were three times more likely to say they had symptoms than adults aged 80 and over.

Finally, the geographical area seems to play a role. Long COVID prevalence was highest in Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Dakota; in the four states, about 12% of adults reported symptoms. Although the NCHS survey could not determine why these states had higher long COVID rates than others, they all have relatively low vaccination rates. Previous research has shown that vaccination reduces the risk of developing Long COVID after infection.

Researchers are still trying to figure out why some people get Long COVID and how common it is. Previous estimates of prevalence varied widely across studies, ranging from 5% to 30% or more. The NCHS survey helps clarify how many people in the United States are currently suffering from post-COVID complications.

However, its estimate may still be low. For one thing, that doesn’t include children, who can also develop Long COVID.

And based on antibody testing data, the CDC estimated nearly 60% of the U.S. population had COVID-19 as of February 2022, and many more infections have been reported since then. In contrast, around 40% of NCHS survey respondents said they had had COVID-19, raising the question of whether some people were infected without knowing it and could have long COVID symptoms without realizing it. account.

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at [email protected]

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