Cognitive impairments among patients in a long-COVID clinic: Prevalence, pattern and relation to illness severity, work function and quality of life

J Affect Disord. 2023 Mar 1;324:162-169. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2022.12.122. Epub 2022 Dec 28.


Background: A considerable proportion of people experience lingering symptoms after Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency, pattern and functional implications of cognitive impairments in patients at a long-COVID clinic who were referred after hospitalisation with COVID-19 or by their general practitioner.

Methods: Patients underwent cognitive screening and completed questionnaires regarding subjective cognition, work function and quality of life. Patients' cognitive performance was compared with that of 150 age-, sex-, and education-matched healthy controls (HC) and with their individually expected performance calculated based on their age, sex and education.

Results: In total, 194 patients were assessed, on average 7 months (standard deviation: 4) after acute COVID-19.44-53 % of the patients displayed clinically relevant cognitive impairments compared to HC and to their expected performance, respectively. Moderate to large impairments were seen in global cognition and in working memory and executive function, while mild to moderate impairments occurred in verbal fluency, verbal learning and memory. Hospitalised (n = 91) and non-hospitalised (n = 103) patients showed similar degree of cognitive impairments in analyses adjusted for age and time since illness. Patients in the cognitively impaired group were older, more often hospitalised, had a higher BMI and more frequent asthma, and were more often female. More objective cognitive impairment was associated with more subjective cognitive difficulties, poorer work function and lower quality of life.

Limitations: The study was cross-sectional, which precludes causality inferences.

Conclusions: These findings underscore the need to assess and treat cognitive impairments in patients at long-COVID clinics.

Keywords: COVID-19; Cognitive impairment; Quality of life; Work function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Cognition
  • Cognition Disorders* / psychology
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / complications
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / etiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Patient Acuity
  • Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life