How widespread is long COVID in the UK?

Millions of people in the UK are living with long COVID. GPonline looks at the data and explores how widespread the condition is across the country and its impact on daily life.

(Photo: Radoslav Zilinsky/Getty Images)

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) look at the current impact and prevalence of long COVID across the UK.

The ONS records self-reported cases in which symptoms continue for more than four weeks after the first suspected COVID-19 infection, as well as cases lasting over 12 weeks and over two years.

It also looks how long COVID rates vary across the UK and within countries, as well as the main symptoms and the impact on people's lives.

How many people are living with long COVID?

An estimated 2m people were living with symptoms of long COVID as of 1 May 2022, equating to 3.1% of the UK population.

More than two-thirds of people with long COVID have been experiencing symptoms for more than 12 weeks - and around a fifth have had symptoms for two years or more.

How are long COVID cases distributed across the UK?

Cases of long COVID are spread across the country, but cases are more prevalent in the north of England than in southern and central areas.

London is least affected with 2.28% of its population feeling the effects of long COVID as of 1 May, compared to Yorkshire and the Humber with 3.65% of its population estimated to be affected.

Of the four nations, Wales is the hardest hit with 3.16% of its population reportedly affected by Long COVID, with Northern Ireland boasting the lowest prevalence at 2.71%.

What are the main symptoms?

There are many different symptoms of long COVID as the condition can affect many different parts of the body. However, the most common symptom recorded in the UK is fatigue, with 55% of the two million people affected reporting to have experienced it.

This is followed by shortness of breath (32%), a recurring cough (23%), and muscle ache which also affects 23% of those experiencing the condition.

What is the impact upon day-to-day life?

Of the 2m people affected by long COVID, 1.4m reported symptoms adversely affecting their ability to carry out day-to-day activities, with 29% of those reporting their day-to-day activities had been ‘limited a lot’.

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