Long Covid Can Affect Younger Adults Even When The Virus Doesn't

Under-50s less likely to have severe Covid, but that doesn't mean they won't get ill.

Younger adults are among the one in seven adults with coronavirus who go on to suffer long Covid, new research confirms.

Throughout the pandemic, it’s been widely accepted that those under 50 are less likely to suffer from severe Covid – but that doesn’t mean they won’t be affected by those suffering symptoms long after they test positive.

US experts found one in seven adults under 65 had at least one new condition that required medical care in the three-week to six-month period after catching Covid. This was 5% higher than a comparison group of people without coronavirus in 2020.

The figures match those for long Covid produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which said in April that almost one in seven people in the UK who test positive for Covid-19 are still suffering symptoms three months later.

What did the study find?

Published by the British Medical Journal, the research looked at the period from three weeks to six months after infection with Covid-19, and found people suffered a range of conditions: chronic respiratory failure, abnormal heart rhythm, memory problems, diabetes, liver abnormalities, anxiety and fatigue.

The researchers, which including a team from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, said: “Although individuals who were older, had pre-existing conditions, and were admitted to hospital because of Covid-19 were at greatest excess risk (of suffering new conditions), younger adults (50 and under), those with no pre-existing conditions, or those not admitted to hospital for Covid-19 also had an increased risk.”

The study used health insurance records to examine data for 266,586 adults aged 18 to 65 diagnosed with Covid-19 between January and October 2020. Individuals were matched to three comparison groups without coronavirus, including one group diagnosed with a different respiratory infection.

Those who had had Covid were found to be more at risk of ongoing health issues than people in the other groups.

As the number of individuals infected with coronavirus worldwide continues to rise, “the number of survivors with potential sequelae [a condition which is the consequence of a previous disease] after Covid will continue to grow”, researchers said.

In an editorial published alongside the findings, Elaine Maxwell, from the National Institute for Health Research, said: “Healthcare professionals should be alert to the possibility of long Covid in anyone with confirmed or suspected Covid-19. How to treat these longer-term consequences is now an urgent research priority.”