Multidimensional phenotyping of the post-COVID-19 syndrome: A Swiss survey study

CNS Neurosci Ther. 2022 Dec;28(12):1953-1963. doi: 10.1111/cns.13938. Epub 2022 Aug 16.


Introduction: Post-COVID-19 syndrome affects approximately 10-25% of people after a COVID-19 infection, irrespective of initial COVID-19 severity. The aim of this project was to assess the clinical characteristics, course, and prognosis of post-COVID-19 syndrome using a systematic multidimensional approach.

Patients and methods: An online survey of people with suspected and confirmed COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 syndrome, distributed via Swiss COVID-19 support groups, social media, and our post-COVID-19 consultation, was performed. A total of 8 post-infectious domains were assessed with 120 questions. Data were collected from October 15 to December 12, 2021, and 309 participants were included. Analysis of clinical phenomenology of post-COVID-19 syndrome was performed using comparative statistics.

Results: The three most prevalent post-COVID-19 symptoms in our survey cohort were fatigue (288/309, 93.2%), pain including headache (218/309, 70.6%), and sleep-wake disturbances (mainly insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness, 145/309, 46.9%). Post-COVID-19 syndrome had an impact on work ability, as more than half of the respondents (168/268, 62.7%) reported an inability to work, which lasted on average 26.6 weeks (95% CI 23.5-29.6, range 1-94, n = 168). Quality of life measured by WHO-5 Well-being Index was overall low in respondents with post-COVID-19 syndrome (mean, 95% CI 9.1 [8.5-9.8], range 1-25, n = 239).

Conclusion: Fatigue, pain, and sleep-wake disturbances were the main symptoms of the post-COVID-19 syndrome in our cohort and had an impact on the quality of life and ability to work in a majority of patients. However, survey respondents reported a significant reduction in symptoms over 12 months. Post-COVID-19 syndrome remains a significant challenge. Further studies to characterize this syndrome and to explore therapeutic options are therefore urgently needed.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus; long-term symptoms; neuropsychiatric symptoms; post-infectious; viral infection.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / complications
  • COVID-19* / diagnosis
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / physiopathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Fatigue / complications
  • Fatigue / epidemiology
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / epidemiology
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • Quality of Life
  • SARS-CoV-2 / pathogenicity
  • Sleep Disorders, Intrinsic / complications
  • Sleep Disorders, Intrinsic / epidemiology
  • Switzerland / epidemiology