Women aged between 50 and 60 are at the highest risk of going on to develop long Covid after contracting the virus, a new study has found.
Long Covid refers to people who experience symptoms of coronavirus for longer than the two weeks identified as typical by the World Health Organisation.
Symptoms span from being out of breath, feeling unusually tired, struggling to concentrate, having muscle aches, joint pain, “brain fog”, memory loss, respiratory and cardiovascular problems and depression.
A study by King’s College London, which examined data from the Covid Symptom Study app, found one in 20 people with coronavirus are likely to endure symptoms for eight weeks or more — equivalent to hundreds of thousands of patients in the UK.
The study found that women aged under 50 were were 50 per cent more likely to suffer long Covid — sometimes referred to as long-haul or long-tail Covid — compared to men.
Women aged between 50 and 60 were eight times more likely than 18- to 30-year-olds to endure long-term coronavirus symptoms.
Researchers identified four factors that can lead to long-standing symptoms — age in both sexes, women under 60, weight, and severity of early symptoms.
The study found those who have long-term repercussions from the virus have a marginally higher average body mass index (BMI) than people who make a speedier recovery. It also discovered asthma sufferers were more likely to get long Covid but researchers did not discover any obvious correlation between long-term symptoms and other underlying health conditions.
Researchers, led by Dr Claire Steves and Professor Tim Spector, analysed data from 4,182 people who used the Covid Symptom Study app.
Dr Steves, a clinical academic, said: “It’s important we use the knowledge we have gained from the first wave in the pandemic to reduce the long-term impact of the second. This should pave the way for trials of early interventions to reduce the long term effects.
“Thanks to the diligent logging of our contributors so far, this research could already pave the way for preventative and treatment strategies for Long-Covid. We urge everyone to join the effort by downloading the app and taking just a minute every day to log your health.”
The study estimates around one in seven of those who contract symptomatic coronavirus will be ill for at least four weeks, one in 20 for eight weeks and one in 45 for 12 weeks or longer.
Professor Spector said: “Covid-19 is a mild illness for many, but for one in 50, symptoms can persist for longer than 12 weeks. So it’s important that, as well as worrying about excess deaths, we also need to consider those who will be affected by long Covid if we don’t get the pandemic under control soon.
“As we wait for a vaccine, it is vital that we all work together to stem the spread of coronavirus via lifestyle changes and more rigorous self-isolating with symptoms or positive tests.”