Official data shows 376,000 people are still suffering symptoms of long Covid at least a year on from being infected, with one million experiencing the effects more than 12 weeks after recovering.
This latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey illustrates the scale of the problem that long Covid will bring to the country, workplaces and insurers.
The data covering the period up to 2 May 2021 reveals fatigue was cited as the most common symptom of long Covid, followed by shortness of breath, muscle ache and difficulty concentrating.
The data also shed light on the impact the condition has on sufferers’ day-to-day activity.
Of all the one million people reporting long Covid symptoms, 650,000 experienced at least some limitation to their day-to-day activities as a result, with 192,000 (19%) adding that their day-to-day activities had been limited a lot.
The largest group of long Covid sufferers who reported that their day-to-day activity was limited a lot was the 50-69 age group.
This was followed closely closely by 35 to 49-year-olds, with a significant drop off to 25 to 34-year-olds and then 17 to 24-year-olds.
The ONS noted that these estimates reflected the recurrent nature of symptoms that has been widely reported and so people may not be continually or presently experiencing them.
And it added that attributing prolonged symptoms to Covid-19 may be difficult in practice, particularly for symptoms related to mental health which has generally worsened during the pandemic.
Commenting on the implications of the data for the protection insurance sector, Steve Ellis, head of employee benefit consulting at Prosperis, told Health & Protection: “As Covid has been with us now for just over a year, there is the chance that income protection claims will start to increase.
“However, this may not actually be the case as the greater incidence of long Covid appears to be in the groups where there is a lower likelihood of IP being in place.
“This suggests the insurance industry and government need to work together to help employers gain access to affordable IP for more employees.”
ONS head of health analysis and life events Julie Stanborough added: “Around one million people in the UK were experiencing self-reported long Covid at the beginning of May, with nearly two-thirds experiencing a negative impact on day-to-day activities.
“Self-reported long Covid was most common in people aged 35 to 69 years, women, those living in the most deprived areas, and those living with an existing disability or health condition.
“Our analysis also shows that health and social care workers had a higher prevalence of self-reported long Covid than those working in other sectors, but this was largely driven by the risk of initial infection and other socio-demographic factors such as age, sex and location.”