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Persistent COVID-19 symptoms in community-living older adults from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA)

Commun Med (Lond). 2023 Mar 11;3(1):36. doi: 10.1038/s43856-023-00266-0.


BACKGROUND: Symptom persistence in non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients, also known as Long COVID or Post-acute Sequelae of COVID-19, is not well characterized or understood, and few studies have included non-COVID-19 control groups.

METHODS: We used data from a cross-sectional COVID-19 questionnaire (September-December 2020) linked to baseline (2011-2015) and follow-up (2015-2018) data from a population-based cohort including 23,757 adults 50+ years to examine how age, sex, and pre-pandemic physical, psychological, social, and functional health were related to the severity and persistence of 23 COVID-19-related symptoms experienced between March 2020 and questionnaire completion.

RESULTS: The most common symptoms are fatigue, dry cough, muscle/joint pain, sore throat, headache, and runny nose; reported by over 25% of participant who had (n = 121) or did not have (n = 23,636) COVID-19 during the study period. The cumulative incidence of moderate/severe symptoms in people with COVID-19 is more than double that reported by people without COVID-19, with the absolute difference ranging from 16.8% (runny nose) to 37.8% (fatigue). Approximately 60% of male and 73% of female participants with COVID-19 report at least one symptom persisting >1 month. Persistence >1 month is higher in females (aIRR = 1.68; 95% CI: 1.03, 2.73) and those with multimorbidity (aIRR = 1.90; 95% CI: 1.02, 3.49); persistence >3 months decreases by 15% with each unit increase in subjective social status after adjusting for age, sex and multimorbidity.

CONCLUSIONS: Many people living in the community who were not hospitalized for COVID-19 still experience symptoms 1- and 3-months post infection. These data suggest that additional supports, for example access to rehabilitative care, are needed to help some individuals fully recover.

PMID:36906677 | DOI:10.1038/s43856-023-00266-0

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