How long are you going to have COVID? Study breaks down chances of recovery

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.


Chances are you’ve heard of long COVID before, and you might be wondering how likely you are to develop it after a COVID-19 infection.

Researchers in Scotland sought to determine the long chances of COVID in a new nationwide study examining thousands of people nationwide who had COVID-19 compared to those who did not.

Long COVIDs, or post-COVID conditions, occur when symptoms of the virus last much longer than expected – preventing some from fully recovering – and scientists are still trying to understand the full scope of the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define post-COVID conditions as “new, recurrent or persistent” health conditions experienced at least four weeks after a COVID-19 infection. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization defines it as occurring in three months after an infectionwith symptoms persisting for two months or more.

Here’s what you need to know about the new study of 96,238 people living in Scotland.

Scottish researchers found that 48% of study participants still had symptoms of COVID-19 between six and 18 months after a recorded symptomatic COVID-19 infection, according to findings published Oct. 12 in the journal Nature Communications. In the group, 42% said they had only partially recovered and 6%, or 1 in 20, said they had not recovered at all.

The work looked at 33,281 people who had lab-confirmed COVID-19 infection, the researchers said. For comparison, the remaining 62,957 participants in the study were people who had never been infected. The average age of the people studied was 45 years.

“While most people recover quickly and completely from infection with COVID-19, some people develop a wide variety of long-term problemssaid lead researcher and professor of public health Jill Pell, from the University of Glasgow, in a statement.

We think that 16 million adults of working age in the United States, aged 18 to 65, are currently living with long COVID, according to the Brookings Institution, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C.

Although the symptoms of long COVID are wide-ranging, the study found that the most common ones shared by participants were “potentially cardiovascular in origin,” including shortness of breath, confusion, chest pain, and heart palpitations.

Does the development of long COVID depend on the severity of the infection?

Scottish researchers have found that the likelihood of developing long COVID is linked to the severity of participants’ COVID-19 infections.

The good news is that those who were asymptomatic when infected with COVID-19 — meaning they reported no viral symptoms — did not experience persistent viral symptoms, the study found.

The researchers wrote that long COVID was “specific for symptomatic infections.”

Additionally, the study found that there is a higher likelihood of developing post-COVID conditions for those with more severe symptoms, particularly if a participant required hospitalization.

Of 31,486 study participants who experienced symptoms of COVID-19 during their infection, specifically 1,856 said they had not recovered several months later, according to the study. 13,350 participants said they had “only partially” recovered.

Other factors associated with higher risk for prolonged COVID included “advanced age, female gender, deprivation, white ethnicity, and pre-existing health conditions,” the researchers wrote.

COVID-19 vaccination status also impacted the odds of developing long-lasting COVID symptoms, the study found.

Participants who were vaccinated before being infected with the virus were less likely to develop certain post-COVID conditions, the researchers wrote.

“We know that being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can reduce the likelihood of developing long COVID and therefore we encourage those who are eligible for the COVID vaccine to take the opportunity to improve their protection by getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Andrew McAuley, who participated in the study, said in a statement.

The findings come several months after the CDC released research in May that found about 1 in 5 adults can develop at least one long COVID-19 symptom following an infection, McClatchy News previously reported.

“Each of these people with Long COVID is suffering and has a story that needs to be heardDr. Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, a physiatrist and professor at the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at San Antonio, wrote in written testimony presented during a House Subcommittee hearing on the long COVID in July.

Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the Southeast and Northeast while based in New York. She is an alumnus of the College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously she has written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.

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