Alarming mental health impact of long Covid laid bare

People take Covid-19 tests at a mobile testing centre in south London. (Getty)
People take Covid-19 tests at a mobile testing centre in south London. (Getty)

The mental health impact of long Covid has been laid bare in a new report, revealing almost a third of sufferers experience moderate to severe depressive symptoms.

People who have had or suspect they may have had long Covid are almost twice as likely to have experienced depression compared to those who haven't contracted coronavirus, according to research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

These people were more likely to report often, or always, feeling lonely (10%) compared to people who do not think they have ever had the virus (6%).

And they were more likely to say their work had been affected by the pandemic (44% versus 36%) and their household finances (22% versus 13%).

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Members of the public queue outside to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a temporary Covid-19 vaccine centre at the Tate Modern in central London on July 16, 2021. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
People queue outside to receive a vaccine at the Tate Modern in central London. (Getty)

Some 6.2% of adults said they may have experienced the long Covid when polled by ONS between 7 April and 13 June.

A quarter (25%) were likely to have some form of anxiety, compared with 15% of people not believed to have been hit by Covid.

An estimated 962,000 people living in private households in the UK were experiencing self-reported long COVID as of 6 June, according to ONS

Symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle ache and difficulty concentrating, affected the daily activities of 65.9% of long Covid sufferers, with a further 18.5% saying their day to day lives had been “limited a lot”.

A further Imperial College London-led REACT-2 study found one in 20 people with long Covid had persistent symptoms.

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the REACT programme from Imperial’s School of Public Health, 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.”

Independent Sage member Dr Zubaida Haque tweeted: “There are so many risks associated with unhindered high transmission, partic(ularly) when only ~52% of population are fully vaxxed.

“There is risk of adults swamping hospitals, but also increasing risk of severe illness and/or #LongCovid in children. Also more cases = decimated workforce.”

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Members of the public at a Covid-19 vaccination centre on site during day three of The Open at The Royal St George's Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent. Picture date: Saturday July 17, 2021. (Photo by Gareth Fuller/PA Images via Getty Images)
A vaccination centre at The Open at The Royal St George's Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent. (Getty)

The ONS said it is not possible to infer cause-and-effect relationships from the results from the poll on long COVID and depression.

It warned associations could be the result of other factors such as age, sex, disability status or deprivation level.

The poll found women, disabled adults, those aged between 30 and 49 and those living in the most deprived parts of England were more likely to say they may have had the illness.

The ONS pooled ten waves of data on 39,268 respondents aged 16 years and over in Great Britain.

The total proportion of those who may have had long Covid was split into 3.6% who said they had experienced long Covid, and 2.6% who said they were unsure.

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