Two million Britons suffer long COVID symptoms, survey shows

By Thomson Reuters Apr 25, 2024 | 6:44 AM

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) – Two million people across England and Scotland are still suffering from long COVID symptoms, of whom 381,000 have had their day-to-day activities limited a lot, according to an official study published on Thursday.

Britain’s Office for National Statistics said 3.3% of people surveyed between Feb. 6 and March 7 reported having COVID symptoms that had lasted more than four weeks since an initial infection and were not explained by another medical condition.

This was up slightly from the 2.9% of people who reported long COVID in a similar ONS survey in March 2023 which covered the whole United Kingdom, although the ONS said the two surveys’ methods were not exactly comparable.

Unlike in other large, rich nations, in Britain labour force participation has fallen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, troubling the government and employers.

A big factor has been an increase in the number of working-age people who are long-term sick, which has risen by around 700,000 since the pandemic.

Thursday’s data showed that 9.1% of people who were not working or looking for work reported long COVID symptoms, nearly triple the rate among the population as a whole.

People aged 45-54 years were most likely to report long COVID symptoms, at 5% of the age group, and women were 20% more likely to report symptoms than men.

Of the people reporting long COVID symptoms in Thursday’s survey, 51% said they started more than two years ago, and 71% said they had lasted at least a year.

Britain recorded more than 230,000 COVID-19 deaths, giving it a similar death rate to the United States and Italy but a higher one than elsewhere in western Europe, based on World Health Organization data.

Thursday’s ONS data was produced with the UK Health Security Agency, based on a sample of 139,000 participants.

(Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Alex Richardson)