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One in 20 people not looking for paid work ‘have long Covid’

Technicians scan test tubes containing live samples of Covid-19 at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Technicians scan test tubes containing live samples of Covid-19 at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)

One in 20 people in the UK who are not in work and not looking for paid work are suffering from long Covid, new figures suggest.

The proportion is higher than those who are unemployed, where the level is around one in 29, and those in employment, at one in 30.

People of working age but who are not looking for paid work are classed as being economically inactive, along with other groups such as students and those who are retired.

It is the first time estimates of long Covid by employment status have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures are based on self-reported long Covid from a representative sample of people in private households in the four weeks to July 2.

They suggest the proportion of people not in work and not looking for work who are experiencing symptoms of long Covid has more than doubled over the past year, from 2.4% in August 2021 to 5.0% in July 2022.

Among retired people the proportion has jumped from 1.3% to 2.9% in the same period.

By contrast the rate for people in employment has risen more slowly, from 2.0% to 3.3%, as has the rate for people who are unemployed, from 1.9% to 3.5%.

The ONS said the increase in the prevalence of self-reported long Covid among retired people and those not in and not looking for paid work “may be driven by people already in these groups developing long Covid symptoms, or people with long Covid moving into these groups from other employment status categories”.

Further analysis of trends in long Covid by employment status will be published in the future, the ONS added.

There is no standard measure for long Covid, with the ONS using a definition based on symptoms that have persisted for more than four weeks after a first suspected coronavirus infection, where the symptoms could not be explained by something else.

HEALTH Coronavirus LongCovid
(PA Graphics)

The total number of people in the UK suffering from long Covid is estimated to have fallen slightly, from just under two million at the start of June this year to just under 1.8 million at the beginning of July.

Some 761,000 people with self-reported long Covid first had – or suspected they had – Covid-19 at least a year ago, while 380,000 said they first had the virus at least two years ago.

Long Covid is estimated to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.3 million people – nearly three-quarters of those self-reported long Covid – with 369,000 saying their ability to undertake day-to-day activities has been “limited a lot”.

Fatigue continues to be the most common symptom (experienced by 54% of those with self-reported long Covid), followed by shortness of breath (31%), loss of smell (23%) and muscle ache (22%).