Long Covid is thought to impact one million people directly in the UK. But there are many millions more who are also affected – and up until now, they’ve rarely been spoken about.
New research suggests prolonged illness from the virus doesn’t just profoundly impact the lives of those suffering with it, but it “severely affects” the quality of life of their families, too.
Billie-Jo Redman, 27, a mum from Essex, suffers from fatigue, brain fog and daily waves of pins and needles. At times, her heart rate has been so high she’s had to wear a 24-hour heart monitor.
“My life feels like it’s over,” she said. “I used to go on adventures with my son Roman – now I have days where I can’t even get him to school.”
Redman, who previously had no health issues, moved from London to Essex before the first lockdown so has little family support nearby. The 27-year-old feels her illness has had a huge impact on her son. “It’s had a tragic effect on our daily lives,” she said. “There needs to be more support for families.”
A survey of more than 700 Covid-19 survivors along with their partners and close relatives revealed the biggest impact on families was “feeling worried” – which impacted 94% of respondents.
Other areas of life impacted included: family activities (83%), feelings of frustration (82%), feeling sad (78%), sleep (69%) and sex life (68%). Two-thirds (66%) reported impact on holidays, and more than half (56%) reported an increase in family expenses.
The study was conducted by Cardiff University study, in collaboration with the University of Hertfordshire. Researchers noted there is a huge “secondary burden” placed on those closest to people living with long Covid and called for more support.
“We have all seen the devastating impact long Covid can have on survivors, but we have heard very little about how it can affect the lives of their nearest and dearest,” said lead author Rubina Shah, a PhD student at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine.
“The impact of Covid can be profound and long-lasting; there needs to be a holistic support system that is sensitive to the needs of both survivors and their families to help ease this burden.”
Policymakers should consider developing and commissioning a range of support services, including needs-based mental health counselling and local support groups, researchers said.