”Our research has revealed that long Covid can leave people with worse fatigue and quality of life than some cancers, yet the support and understanding is not at the same level,” said co-author William Henley, professor at the University of Exeter Medical School
Researchers say fatigue in long Covid patients is similar to that in cancer-related anaemia or severe kidney disease patients, with day-to-day impact of long Covid being worse than that in stroke and comparable to that in Parkinson’s disease patients.
The patients’ health-related quality of life too was found to be worse than that of people with advanced metastatic cancers, like stage IV lung cancer, the study led by researchers at University College London (UCL) and the University of Exeter, UK, said.
”Our research has revealed that long Covid can leave people with worse fatigue and quality of life than some cancers, yet the support and understanding is not at the same level,” said co-author William Henley, professor at the University of Exeter Medical School.
The study examined the impact of long Covid in the lives of over 3,750 patients, who completed questionnaires on a digital app, used in their treatment, about how long Covid was impacting their daily life, levels of fatigue, depression, anxiety, breathlessness, brain fog, and their quality of life.
”Our results have found that long Covid can have a devastating effect on the lives of patients – with fatigue having the biggest impact on everything from social activities to work, chores and maintaining close relationships,” said Henry Goodfellow, UCL, who co-led the study published in the journal BMJ Open.
Along with the daily lives of people, the researchers believed long Covid was also impacting the country’s economy and society.
Patients are referred to a long Covid clinic only if they have had long Covid symptoms for at least 12 weeks following acute infection.
Of the 90 per cent of those who responded to the questionnaires, who were also of working age (18-65 years of age), 51 per cent reported being unable to work for at least one day in the previous month and 20 per cent unable to work at all.
Also, 71 per cent of the patients were female. The study said that as working-age women made up a majority of the health and social care workforce, long Covid may add additional pressures to already stretched services.
”Long Covid is an invisible condition, and many people are left trying to manage significant changes to how they can function.
”We urgently need more research to enable the development of evidence-based services to support people trying to manage this debilitating new condition,” said Henley.
The researchers, however, acknowledged that the study participants were patients under treatment, and, thus, were likely to have worse symptoms than those who were not. The researchers did not know details of those patients who had not chosen to seek help for their symptoms, they said.