Impact of long COVID-19 on work: a co-produced survey

Lancet. 2023 Nov:402 Suppl 1:S98. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(23)02157-8.


Background: A proportion of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 develop post-COVID-19 condition (also known as long COVID), a predominantly multisystem condition resulting in varying degrees of functional disability limiting day-to-day activities. We aimed to describe the impact of long COVID on work.

Methods: We co-produced baseline and follow-up online surveys with people with lived experience of long COVID (including three of the co-authors). Respondents were aged 18 years and older with self-reported long COVID following confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection who were not hospitalised in the first 2 weeks of illness. The baseline survey was administered in November, 2020, using convenience non-probability sampling through social media. Following informed consent, participants completed a follow-up survey at 1 year (November, 2021). Ethics approval was granted by the University of Southampton.

Findings: Of 2210 invited, 1153 (52%) participants responded to the survey (mean age of 47·7 years [SD 10·6], 965 [84%] female, 1096 [95%] White, and 892 [78%] holding a university degree). 54 participants (4·7%) reported recovery at follow-up. Median duration of illness was 19·8 months (IQR 19·3-20·1) at follow-up. An equal proportion reported being unable to work at baseline (20·4%, n=235) and follow-up (20·6%, n=237). However, a higher proportion reported being made redundant or taking early retirement at follow-up (8·9%, n=102) than at baseline (2·2%, n=25). 209 (18·1%) reported losing or resigning or leaving their job due to long COVID at follow-up compared with 170 (14·8%) participants at baseline. 307 (26·6%) participants reported not taking time off-sick due to long COVID at baseline, decreasing to 122 (10·6%) at follow-up. Of the 656 individuals reporting length of time off-sick, 354 (54%) were off-sick for more than 3 months, with 113 (17·2%) off-sick for more than 12 months. Nearly half (47%, n=538) reported a loss in income.

Interpretation: The convenience non-probability sampling limits generalisability. Research is needed in a representative population sample to characterise the effect on working patterns in people with long COVID, particularly in those with less flexible and more physically demanding occupations who may be less able to take time off to recover.

Funding: None.

MeSH terms

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