“Our findings do paint a concerning picture of the longer-term health consequences of COVID-19, which need to be accounted for in policy and planning,” Paul Elliott, an Imperial College epidemiologist who led the study, said in a statement.
The British findings were collected by Imperial College as part of its virus-tracking REACT 2 study, based on self-reported data from 508,707 adults between September and February. The study is a preprint and has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Nearly 27,000 of the respondents, roughly 6 percent, said they experienced at least one of 29 symptoms linked with covid-19 for three months or longer. Of those who said they had been infected by the coronavirus, that figure jumped to more than a third.
Given the high number of cases of the coronavirus recorded in England — just over 4 million at present, according to the British government — the researchers said that it was possible that 2 million people or more had experienced symptoms of long covid across the country.
That number is a considerable jump from others. An estimate from the British government’s Office of National Statistics released just this month had put the number of people across all of Britain, including England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, at 1 million.
Another study from Norway published this week found that more than half of home-isolated young adults with mild covid-19 had suffered significant symptoms six months after their initial infection.
The most prevalent symptoms in that study, conducted by researchers at the University of Bergen, were difficulty concentrating and respiratory problems.
NIH in February launched a $1.15 billion initiative over four years to study the causes and treatment of long-haul covid.
There has been anecdotal evidence in the United States that some people suffering from symptoms of long covid improved after being vaccinated, but so far there have not been conclusive studies on the matter.
“Long covid can have a lasting and debilitating impact on the lives of those affected,” Hancock said Thursday. “Studies like this help us to rapidly build our understanding of the impact of the condition, and we are using these findings and other new research to develop support and treatments.”