Women, Individuals With High BMI May Face Greater Risk Of Long COVID: Study

OVID-19 continues to haunt some patients, with many suffering from so-called long COVID. Women and those with high body mass index (BMI) may be at higher risk for the condition, a new study has found.

For their study, published Wednesday on PLOS Global Public Health, a team of researchers conducted a survey to "characterize the burden and predictors" for long COVID.

Long COVID, also known as post-COVID syndrome, is the condition wherein the symptoms patients develop during or after a COVID-19 infection persist for over 12 weeks after being diagnosed with it. Symptoms may range from coughing, fatigue and breathlessness to brain fog, tinnitus and chest pain.

"Ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 syndrome is estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 836,000 people in the United Kingdom according to the ONS (Office for National Statistics, UK) report, with 244,000 saying their ability to undertake day-to-day activities had been 'limited a lot,'" the researchers wrote.

To shed further light on the condition and potentially inform healthcare services, the researchers surveyed people in Norfolk, East England U.K. who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in 2020. In total, some 1,487 people participated in the survey, wherein they answered queries about pre- and post-COVID conditions such as breathlessness, loss of taste or smell, and their use of healthcare services related to long COVID.

"We wanted to find out what factors might make people more or less susceptible to developing long COVID," one of the study authors, Vassilios Vassiliou of the University of East Anglia's (UEA) Norwich Medical School, said in the university's news release.

Of all the participants, 774, or 52.1% experienced long COVID. What's interesting, however, is that more women had the symptoms compared to men, with the male sex appearing to be "protective of post-COVID symptoms" compared to the female sex.

Having a higher BMI was also associated with higher risks of developing long COVID.

"It was found that female sex and high BMI are associated with higher likelihood of developing post-COVID19 syndrome," the researchers wrote. "Those two factors have a significant predictive value in the use of further health services among those diagnosed with post-COVID19 syndrome."

The results, they say, are in line with another previous research in England, wherein females were also found to have higher long COVID rates than males.

This sheds further light on the condition that many continue to suffer from. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for instance, long COVID has also been more often observed in some people such as those who had severe COVID-19, while those who weren't vaccinated for COVID-19 may also face higher risks for it.

The impact of long COVID may go beyond just the patients, too, as an expert pointed out that it may also have a $3.7 trillion impact on the U.S. economy. Hence, the results of this study provide valuable information about long COVID and the people who are most likely to suffer from it.

"We hope that our work will help policymakers plan local services and also inform the wider public of the scale of the long COVID pandemic," Vassiliou said, as per UEA.

"Our academic colleagues at the University of East Anglia have really helped local health and care organizations to identify local patients at risk of long COVID, helping us to do all we can to support them on their recovery journey," another study author, Mark Lim, added.

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