Large-scale long COVID study findings published

A study led by Public Health's Prof Jill Pell has found that 1 in 20 people who took part in the research had not recovered from having COVID-19 at their most recent follow up, between six and 18 months following infection.

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The first findings of the Covid In Scotland Study were published in October 2022 in Nature Communications.

Several SHW staff are involved in the study. Led by Prof Jill Pell and Prof David Lowe, with analysis performed by Dr Claire Hastie, we found that 1 in 20 people with symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection had not recovered at their most recent follow up – between six and 18 months following infection. The impact of long-COVID included a wide-range of symptoms, impacts on all aspects of daily life and reduced overall quality of life. Long-COVID symptoms were more likely following severe infections requiring hospitalisation. The most reported symptoms included breathlessness, chest pain, palpitations, and confusion (or "brain fog"). Long-COVID was also more likely in individuals who were older, female, those from deprived communities, and those with pre-existing physical and mental health problems.

A subsample of participants is being invited to take part in the qualitative arm of the study. This is led by Prof Kate O’Donnell, Dr David Blane, and Dr Susan Browne. Participants are purposively sampled on the basis of sociodemographic characteristics (age, sex, ethnicity and socioeconomic status) and location (urban and rural settings). Semi-structured interviews are being conducted with those experiencing on-going symptoms. Interviews are theoretically informed and seek to explore the impact that on-going symptoms are having on their daily life; the work required of them and their family or support network to deal with the symptoms; experiences of help-seeking; and their ideas on potential interventions and support.

Patients with long-COVID are involved in the study design and interpretation of results, with public and patient involvement coordinated by Dr Tracy Ibbotson. Infectious disease expertise is provided by Dr Janet Scott of the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research. The CSO funded study is a collaboration between University of Glasgow, Public Health Scotland, and the universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Recruitment and analysis are ongoing.

Dr Claire Hastie
Lecturer in Public Health

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First published: 19 October 2022

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