Prevalence and Correlates of Long COVID Symptoms Among US Adults

JAMA Netw Open. 2022 Oct 3;5(10):e2238804. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.38804.

Abstract

Importance: Persistence of COVID-19 symptoms beyond 2 months, or long COVID, is increasingly recognized as a common sequela of acute infection.

Objectives: To estimate the prevalence of and sociodemographic factors associated with long COVID and to identify whether the predominant variant at the time of infection and prior vaccination status are associated with differential risk.

Design, setting, and participants: This cross-sectional study comprised 8 waves of a nonprobability internet survey conducted between February 5, 2021, and July 6, 2022, among individuals aged 18 years or older, inclusive of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Main outcomes and measures: Long COVID, defined as reporting continued COVID-19 symptoms beyond 2 months after the initial month of symptoms, among individuals with self-reported positive results of a polymerase chain reaction test or antigen test.

Results: The 16 091 survey respondents reporting test-confirmed COVID-19 illness at least 2 months prior had a mean age of 40.5 (15.2) years; 10 075 (62.6%) were women, and 6016 (37.4%) were men; 817 (5.1%) were Asian, 1826 (11.3%) were Black, 1546 (9.6%) were Hispanic, and 11 425 (71.0%) were White. From this cohort, 2359 individuals (14.7%) reported continued COVID-19 symptoms more than 2 months after acute illness. Reweighted to reflect national sociodemographic distributions, these individuals represented 13.9% of those who had tested positive for COVID-19, or 1.7% of US adults. In logistic regression models, older age per decade above 40 years (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.15; 95% CI, 1.12-1.19) and female gender (adjusted OR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.73-2.13) were associated with greater risk of persistence of long COVID; individuals with a graduate education vs high school or less (adjusted OR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.56-0.79) and urban vs rural residence (adjusted OR, 0.74; 95% CI, 0.64-0.86) were less likely to report persistence of long COVID. Compared with ancestral COVID-19, infection during periods when the Epsilon variant (OR, 0.81; 95% CI, 0.69-0.95) or the Omicron variant (OR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.64-0.92) predominated in the US was associated with diminished likelihood of long COVID. Completion of the primary vaccine series prior to acute illness was associated with diminished risk for long COVID (OR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.60-0.86).

Conclusions and relevance: This study suggests that long COVID is prevalent and associated with female gender and older age, while risk may be diminished by completion of primary vaccination series prior to infection.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections* / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Pneumonia, Viral* / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • SARS-CoV-2

Supplementary concepts

  • post-acute COVID-19 syndrome
  • SARS-CoV-2 variants