Researchers find majority of long Covid patients are women

Researchers believe differences in immune responses could explain gender gap

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Thursday 13 October 2022 08:45 BST

‘Long COVID’ affects women more than men

Women account for almost two-thirds of long Covid cases, according to a new study of the illness in multiple countries.

Extreme tiredness, loss of smell, shortness of breath, and muscle aches are some of the most widely-reported symptoms of long Covid, which affects about six percent of Covid-19 patients.

The NHS says most long people with long Covid fully recover after 12 weeks but that some experience symptoms for longer.

The latest report, carried out by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found women constituted 63 per cent of those with long Covid.

Researchers modelled findings on 1.2 million people aged between four and 66 from 22 countries who had symptomatic Covid in 2020 and 2021 and survived the virus's worst point.

It is not clear why women are more prone to long Covid, though recent research published in the American Journal of Managed Caresuggested different immune responses might explain the gender discrepancy.

The University of Washington study calculated the average duration of long Covid symptoms was nine months among people who were admitted to hospital, while it was four months among individuals who did not stay in hospital.

Calculating the amount of people with long Covid can help policymakers “ensure adequate access to services to guide people toward recovery, return to the workplace or school, and restore their mental health and social life”, researchers said.

The report analysed existing data from research into coronavirus carried out in the US, Austria, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, the Faroe Islands, Sweden, Switzerland and Russia, plus data from 44 studies and statistics from two medical record databases.

Earlier research, published in Nature Medicine, found hair loss and erectile dysfunction have joined the list of long Covid symptoms. Women, younger people, and individuals from Black, mixed-race or other ethnic groups are at higher risk of getting long Covid, studies have found.

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