1 in 5 U.S. Adults Who Got COVID-19 Now Have Long COVID
bout 7.5% of U.S. adults—roughly 20 million people—are currently living with Long COVID symptoms, according to new federal data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
This finding is based upon self-reported data from approximately 62,000 U.S. adults surveyed during June. More than 40% of respondents said they’d previously had COVID-19. And about one in five of those individuals said they still had Long COVID symptoms, defined as new health issues—like fatigue, cognitive issues, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and more—lasting at least three months after infection.
While there’s no single hallmark symptom of Long COVID, many long-haulers report extreme fatigue and crashes after physical activity, cognitive dysfunction, neurological issues, and chronic pain, among other health problems.
The NCHS survey showed that Long COVID prevalence was very different depending on the demographic. According to other research, the prevalence of Long COVID in women was higher than that found in men: 9.4% reported it, while 5.5% did.
There were also differences in the prevalence depending on gender identity, racial and sexual orientation. Nearly 4% of Asian adult reported persistent symptoms. 7.5% of White adults had long-lasting problems, while Almost 7% of Black adults experienced them. The report estimates that 15% to 15% of transgender people have Long COVID symptoms. The report estimates that about 12% of adult bisexuals have Long COVID symptoms compared to 7% among straight, homosexual, and lesbian people.
Contrary to previous research by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, younger adults reported Long COVID symptoms more often than those who were older. Three times as likely were adults aged 50-59 to report symptoms than those 80 years and older.
The final factor was that geographic location seemed to have a significant role. Kentucky, Alabama Tennessee and South Dakota had the highest levels of long COVID. Around 12% of adult patients in each state reported having symptoms. While the NCHS survey can’t determine why those states had higher rates of Long COVID than others, they all have relatively low vaccination rates. Research has shown that vaccines reduce the chance of getting Long COVID from an infection.
Long COVID can be caused by many factors. Researchers continue to investigate the causes. Prevalence estimates for Long COVID have fluctuated widely between studies, and ranged from 5% to 30%. This NCHS survey provides information about how many Americans are suffering from post-COVID complications.
Although it may be lower than originally thought, the number is likely to remain low. For one thing, it doesn’t include children, who can also develop Long COVID.
Based on data from antibody testing, the CDC estimates that nearly 60% of Americans had been infected with COVID-19 by February 2022. Many more cases have since been reported. By contrast, about 40% of NCHS survey respondents said they’d had COVID-19, which raises the question of whether some people were unknowingly infected—and could be experiencing Long COVID symptoms without realizing it.
Here are more must-read stories from TIME