Long Covid risk higher for people living in poorest areas

The risk of developing long Covid is higher for people who live in poorer areas, new research has found.

Researchers found the chance of having long Covid is 46 per cent higher for those living in the most deprived areas compared to those living in the least deprived areas, a paper published in the Royal Society of Medicine found.

Analysing data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the study examined over 200,000 working-age adults and is the first to establish a link between long Covid and socioeconomic status across a range of job sectors.

The researchers from the universities of Southampton and Oxford found that women had a higher risk of long Covid overall, with those in affluent areas still more likely to develop the condition than men in the most deprived areas.

Across all occupations, people working in the healthcare and education sectors and those living in poorer areas were more likely to develop long Covid than those in the least deprived areas.

According to ONS figures published in March 2023, around 1.9 million people across the country were estimated to be suffering from long Covid – 2.9 per cent of the population.

That figure is up from 689,000 at the start of January and 514,000 in September 2022.

Fatigue is the most common symptom of long Covid, followed by difficulty concentrating, muscle aches and shortness of breath.

Lead researcher Dr Nazrul Islam, of the faculty of medicine at the University of Southampton and Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford, said: “Although certain occupational groups, especially frontline and essential workers, have been unequally affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, studies on long Covid and occupation are sparse.

“Our findings are consistent with pre-pandemic research on other health conditions, suggesting that workers with lower socioeconomic status have poorer health outcomes and higher premature mortality than those with higher socioeconomic position but a similar occupation. However, the socioeconomic inequality may vary considerably by occupation groups.”

The researchers recommended that future health policies take into account factors such as sex, deprivation and occupation when considering how to treat and manage long Covid.

Dr Islam added: “The inequalities shown in this study show that such an approach can provide more precise identification of risks and be relevant to other diseases and beyond the pandemic.”

“These findings will help inform health policy in identifying the most vulnerable sub-groups of populations so that more focused efforts are given, and proportional allocation of resources are implemented, to facilitate the reduction of health inequalities.”

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