The UK may be home to twice the number of long Covid sufferers than first feared, with research suggesting the figure could be as high as two million.
The Imperial College London-led React-2 study collected samples from half a million people between September and February and found one in 20 had persistent Covid symptoms, with around 6% experiencing at least one of 29 symptoms linked with Covid for 12 weeks or more.
The figures are based on reports from the people who reported having had Covid, either suspected or confirmed by PCR test, one-third of whom reported persistent symptoms at 12 weeks.
The researchers noted that women, people who smoked, were overweight or obese, lived in deprived areas, or had been admitted to hospital, all had a higher risk of persistent symptoms
Increasing age was also linked with having persistent symptoms, with the risk rising by 3.5% with each decade of life. However Asian people had a lower risk of suffering symptoms.
The researchers conclude this could mean more than two million people in England may have been affected by the persistent symptoms consistent with long Covid. Only last month, ONS figures put the number of long Covid sufferers in the UK at around 1 million people.
Commenting on the data, Professor Paul Elliott, director of Imperial School of Public Health’s React programme, 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.”