Long COVID linked to higher mortality rates and long-term heart problems, new study finds

Three years into the pandemic, and just when we thought the impact of COVID-19 was lessening, new research has shed more light on the long-term repercussions of the virus.

According to a new study published in JAMA Health Forum, people who caught COVID-19 in the past might be at higher risks of heart and pulmonary problems – and even a doubled risk of death.

During a 12-month follow-up period, the study analysed insurance claims data for 13,435 adults who had long COVID and 26,870 individuals who did not have the virus. The study factored in any pre-existing conditions before the infection occurred.

It found that the group with long COVID had a higher mortality rate compared to the group without. Specifically, 2.8 per cent of individuals with long COVID had died compared to only 1.2 per cent of those who hadn’t caught the virus.

The study further pinpoints fatigue, headache, and attention disorder as the most common symptoms experienced by people with long COVID.

“The biggest takeaway is that long COVID is a health condition that we need to continue to study and take seriously. We were particularly troubled by the elevated mortality risks for individuals with long COVID,” Dr Andrea DeVries, Staff Vice President for Health Services Research at Elevance Health and the lead author of the study, told Euronews Next.

“Based on the study, individuals diagnosed with long COVID were more than twice as likely to need care for cardiovascular events and 3.64 times more likely to have a pulmonary embolism. This study found that long COVID could have lasting effects on the quality of life,” she added.

Dangerous health risks with long COVID

During the time the research was being conducted and scientists were studying the outcomes of COVID-19, a wide range of lasting symptoms have been reported since the start of the pandemic, ranging from headaches and respiratory problems to hair loss and even depression.

Some sufferers have even reported never having fully regained their full smell and taste senses.

The results of the studies have further emphasised the symptoms and uncovered even more dangerous health risks.

For instance, another new research paper suggests catching the virus also makes you more susceptible to bowel problems.

This study was based on the comparison of medical records of more than 11.6 million who had COVID-19 in the past three years and 5.6 million people who did not catch the disease in the same period.

The study found that catching COVID-19 can cause long-term gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation and diarrhoea. It also revealed other symptoms, including acid reflux, bloating, and stomach pain.

While much more research is coming to light about the topic, long Covid has been associated with more than 200 symptoms and 50 health conditions until now.

According to DeVries, the research findings highlight the need to continue preventing COVID-19 infections and to improve the health monitoring of individuals following an infection.

“We hope that policy and public health leaders will consider this study’s findings important as they examine recent trends in healthcare utilisation, spending, and outcomes. And further, that they will make policy and programmatic decisions based on this informed understanding of that data,” DeVries told Euronews next.


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