Healthcare Workers 'Most Likely to Report Long COVID Symptoms'

Peter Russell

January 06, 2022

Health and social care staff are in the top three most likely employment groups to report symptoms of long COVID, new data suggests.

More than 1.2 million people in the UK were estimated to have symptoms of long COVID in the 4 weeks up until December 6, 2021, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That represents a 4.7% increase since the last analysis for October, and a 15.7% rise since February last year, data from the Office for National Statistics suggests.

The highest prevalence of long COVID was seen in people aged 50-69, followed by those between 35-49. Young people aged 2-16 were the least likely to say they had symptoms.

Females of any age were more likely to experience long COVID than males, the data indicated.

The estimates were drawn from self-reported long COVID by people who responded to a representative survey, rather than clinically diagnosed ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 or post-COVID syndrome in the full population.

The study included people living in private households, and not those in communal establishments such as halls of residence, prisons, schools, hospitals, or care homes.

The latest ONS figures show that 1.27 million people in the UK were experiencing symptoms of long COVID in November and December compared with 1.20 million in the previous study period, and 1.1 million in February 2021.


Fatigue is the Most Common Symptom

Feeling weak or tired continued to be the most common symptom, reported by 51% of participants. Anosmia, shortness of breath, muscle ache, sleep problems, and difficulty concentrating were also common.

The data suggested that 64% of people with self-reported long COVID found it adversely affected their day-to-day activities, with 20% saying it affected their ability "a lot".

Social care workers continued to top the list of people most likely to say they were affected by symptoms of long COVID, followed by people in teaching and education which saw the largest month-on-month increase out of all employment sectors.

Healthcare workers were third on the list.

People with activity-limiting health conditions or disability were also disproportionately affected.

People in the North West and South East of England were most likely to report having long COVID, with those in Wales and Northern Ireland reporting the lowest prevalence.

Unknown Effects of the Omicron Variant

The ONS findings cover a period when the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 was the dominant COVID strain in the UK before Omicron became established.

Commenting on the findings for the Science Media Centre, Dr David Strain, senior clinical lecturer at the University of Exeter, said that "the treatments that we have to reduce hospitalisation and death are not cancelling the need for further measures to stop the spread of COVID, as we are seeing a rising number of people who have a condition that currently we have no proven treatment for."

He added: "As we continue to see case numbers of Omicron rise, we must be wary that our reliance purely on hospitalisations and death as a measure of the risk from COVID could grossly underestimate the public health impact of our current COVID strategy."


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