Long COVID Patients May Fare Worse Than Some With Cancer

Fatigue is No. 1 symptom among this group, which sees 'shockingly' low quality-of-life scores
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2023 12:55 PM CDT
Long COVID Patients May Fare Worse Than Some With Cancer
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/demaerre)

Medical experts and researchers are still wrangling with the intricacies of long COVID, the label given to health issues that persist or emerge after one's initial bout with the coronavirus is believed to have "ended." Now, a study out of the UK sheds more light on how patients with long COVID might fare over time—and it's not the best of news. "Shockingly, our research has revealed that long COVID can leave people with worse fatigue and quality of life than some cancers," study co-author William Henley says, per the Guardian.

In their research published in the BMJ Open journal, scientists from University College London and the University of Exeter examined more than 3,750 patients referred to a clinic after still dealing with symptoms for at least three months after their original coronavirus infection. The patients—90% of whom were between the ages of 18 and 65 (ie, working age)—used an app to answer questions about their levels of fatigue, depression, anxiety, brain fog, and breathlessness, as well as how these factors affected their routine activity. More than half said they'd been unable to work for at least one day over the past month, while 20% of them said they hadn't been able to work at all.

Fatigue was the symptom that was cited the most, and many subjects had fatigue scores that ranked lower than those of patients with cancer-related anemia or serious kidney disease. As for quality of life, many long COVID patients saw scores lower than those of patients with advanced metastatic cancers (ie, stage 4 lung cancer), while the impact of long COVID on their day-to-day activities ranked lower than patients who'd had a stroke, and about the same as patients with Parkinson's disease.

story continues below

"Long COVID is an invisible condition, and many people are left trying to manage significant changes to how they can function," Henley notes. He adds that "support and understanding" for long COVID patients isn't yet the same as for patients with other, more well-known conditions, and he urges more studies "to enable the development of evidence-based services to support people trying to manage this debilitating new condition." Another study co-author, Henry Goodfellow, notes that about 17% of people who contract COVID end up with long COVID, per a release. (More discoveries stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.