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New Research Shows Prevalence of Long COVID and Its Debilitating Impact Among US Adults

December 20, 2022

Contact: Dan Beeton, 202-239-1460Mail_Outline

Washington, DC — In an update to recent analysis, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) discusses the prevalence of disabling Long COVID among US adults and the demographics of those affected. The authors explain what needs to be done to prevent Long COVID and how to best support patients and caregivers.

“With cases rising again in the US ahead of the winter holidays, more people are likely to experience lingering symptoms defined as ‘Long COVID.’ For many, these symptoms are disabling, limiting sufferers’ ability to participate in daily activities. We as a country are unprepared for the toll that Long COVID has already started to take on patients, the US health care system, the US workforce, and the US economy overall,” report coauthor Hayley Brown said.

In October 2022, CEPR published an initial analysis of the first nationally representative data to be made available on how Long COVID limits the daily activities of adults in the United States. CEPR’s new article updates that analysis by using data from the three latest releases of the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) conducted by the Census Bureau in September, October, and November 2022. It also expands on the earlier analysis to include state-level results, which are now more reliable given the larger sample size available by pooling multiple weeks of data.

CEPR’s new findings show:

  • In Fall 2022, nearly 35.2 million US adults (more than 13 percent of the US adult population) reported ever having Long COVID, including 17.2 million adults who are currently experiencing it. 
  • The vast majority of adults with Long COVID report that the symptoms limit their daily activities to at least some extent, including 4.3 million who said their daily activities were limited “a lot.”
  • There was considerable state variation in the percentage of non-elderly adults experiencing Long COVID and Long-COVID-related disability. 
  • Women were more likely than men to report both Long COVID symptoms and related activity limitations.
  • Hispanic/Latino adults were more likely than both Black and white adults to report Long COVID symptoms and activity limitations. 
  • Inequality in Long COVID disability rates reflects economic inequality. Adults living in households with lower annual incomes were three times more likely to report that Long COVID symptoms disrupted their activities “a lot” than adults in households with higher annual incomes.
  • Long COVID symptoms and activity limitations were most common among 40-to-54-year olds and least common among elderly adults. However, among those with Long COVID, people aged 55 and older were more likely to say their symptoms limited their daily activities “a lot.” 
  • Among adults with Long COVID who also reported a recent loss in household earnings, over 90 percent said their symptoms limit their daily activities, and nearly 40 percent said symptoms limit their activities “a lot.” 

The data show that Long COVID continues to be a debilitating reality for millions of Americans, and federal and state governments must take stronger actions to reduce the risks from Long COVID. Governments should increase access to vaccines, improve indoor air quality, and take other preventative measures to reduce COVID-19 infection. Lawmakers must also ensure patients have access to free and effective medical care, while addressing long-standing limitations in the social security system for people with temporary and long-term disabilities.

Long COVID is a complex epidemiological phenomenon comprising a wide spectrum of symptoms that range from mild to completely disabling. These can improve or worsen over time, and can develop into new symptoms later. It is estimated that 10 to 30 percent of COVID-19 survivors develop Long COVID, and the HPS results support the higher end of that range.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the wave of Long COVID in its wake demonstrate how deadly and debilitating the lack of universal health care is for people in the US,” coauthor Shawn Fremstad said. “Ensuring that medical care and treatment are available to everyone is the best way that the federal and state governments can mitigate the damaging impact that Long COVID will have, in both the near and long term.”


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