Patient symptoms and experience following COVID-19: results from a UK-wide survey

BMJ Open Respir Res. 2021 Nov;8(1):e001075. doi: 10.1136/bmjresp-2021-001075.


Objectives: To investigate the experience of people who continue to be unwell after acute COVID-19, often referred to as 'long COVID', both in terms of their symptoms and their interactions with healthcare.

Design: We conducted a mixed-methods analysis of responses to a survey accessed through a UK online post-COVID-19 support and information hub, between April and December 2020, about people's experiences after having acute COVID-19.

Participants: 3290 respondents, 78% female, 92.1% white ethnicity and median age range 45-54 years; 12.7% had been hospitalised. 494(16.5%) completed the survey between 4 and 8 weeks of the onset of their symptoms, 641(21.4%) between 8 and 12 weeks and 1865 (62.1%) >12 weeks after.

Results: The ongoing symptoms most frequently reported were: breathing problems (92.1%), fatigue (83.3%), muscle weakness or joint stiffness (50.6%), sleep disturbances (46.2%), problems with mental abilities (45.9%), changes in mood, including anxiety and depression (43.1%) and cough (42.3%). Symptoms did not appear to be related to the severity of the acute illness or to the presence of pre-existing medical conditions. Analysis of free-text responses revealed three main themes: (1) experience of living with COVID-19: physical and psychological symptoms that fluctuate unpredictably; (2) interactions with healthcare that were unsatisfactory; (3) implications for the future: their own condition, society and the healthcare system, and the need for research CONCLUSION: Consideration of patient perspectives and experiences will assist in the planning of services to address problems persisting in people who remain symptomatic after the acute phase of COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology