After six to eight months, 26% indicated they felt they hadn’t fully recovered from COVID-19. Furthermore, 55% of participants said they were abnormally fatigued, 25% said they experienced mild difficulty breathing, and 26% had DASS-21 scores that were indicative of depression.
While early public health approaches to the SARS-CoV-2 virus concentrated on lowering COVID-19’s acute impact, a growing body of research suggests that the infection can have long-term physical and mental health implications.
In a new study published in PLOS One, researchers assessed the prevalence of poor physical and mental health symptoms among people who had been infected with SARS-CoV-2 for at least six months, as well as the healthcare services they utilized.
Between February 27 and August 5, 2020, 431 people from the general public in the Canton of Zurich, Switzerland, who had polymerase chain reaction-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection reported to medical authorities were enlisted in this population-based study led by University of Zurich researchers (Zurich SARS-CoV-2 Cohort).
The researchers found that at the time of diagnosis, 89% of the participants had symptoms, and 19% were admitted to the hospital. At six to eight months, 26% said they hadn’t totally recovered. Additionally, 55% of individuals reported feeling unusually tired, 25% experienced at least mild dyspnea (difficulty breathing), and 26% had DASS-21 scores indicating depression symptoms. DASS-21 is a commonly used self-report scale for assessing depression, anxiety, and stress-related emotional states.
After acute sickness, 40% participants reported at least one general practitioner visit linked to COVID-19, and 10% of those who were first hospitalized were rehospitalized.
“This cohort study based on a representative, population-based sample of SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals found that 26% did not fully recover within 6-8 months after diagnosis and 40% had at least one further healthcare contact related to COVID-19. These findings underline the need for the timely planning of healthcare resources and services tailored to the needs of individuals suffering from post-COVID-19 syndrome,” the study’s authors stated.
By February 2021, there were more than 110 million cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection and almost 2.5 million deaths attributed to the pandemic. While initial public health measures centered on decreasing the acute burden COVID-19, a growing body of research suggests that the infection can have long-term physical and mental health repercussions, which is a major source of concern for healthcare systems.
The term “post-COVID-19 syndrome” or “long covid” refers to the effects that remain longer than three months following infection.
The study revealed that a significant proportion of SARS-CoV-2 infected people suffer long-term repercussions and a high need for healthcare services. To help these people recover, a variety of services and patient-centered, integrative approaches will be required.
The researchers suggested that in order to meet the needs of persons suffering with post-COVID-19 syndrome, it is critical to allocate resources and plan for these anticipated healthcare needs in a timely manner.
The new study was published in PLOS One, on July 12th, 2021.
Abstract: Longer-term consequences after SARS-CoV-2 infection are becoming an important burden to societies and healthcare systems. Data on post-COVID-19 syndrome in the general population are required for the timely planning of healthcare services and resources. The objective of this study was to assess the prevalence of impaired health status and physical and mental health symptoms among individuals at least six months after SARS-CoV-2 infection, and to characterize their healthcare utilization.
Menges D, Ballouz T, Anagnostopoulos A, Aschmann HE, Domenghino A, Fehr JS, et al. (2021) Burden of post-COVID-19 syndrome and implications for healthcare service planning: A population-based cohort study. PLoS ONE 16(7): e0254523. https://doi.org/10.1371