100 million have or had long COVID, study estimates
More than 40% of COVID-19 survivors worldwide have had lingering after-effects of the illness, researchers from the University of Michigan estimate.
The study is based on their review of 40 earlier studies from 17 countries that looked at patients' experiences with so-called long COVID, defined as new or persistent symptoms at four or more weeks after infection.
The prevalence rises to 57% among survivors who required hospitalization, the researchers reported on Tuesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
The rate was 49% among female survivors and 37% among males, they said. The estimated long COVID rate was 49% in Asia, 44% in Europe and 30% in North America.
Among the most common problems, fatigue was estimated to affect 23%, while shortness of breath, joint pain and memory problems each affected 13%.
The study likely did not capture all cases of long COVID, the researchers say.
"Based on a WHO (World Health Organization) estimate of 237 million worldwide COVID-19 infections, this global pooled ... estimate indicates that around 100 million individuals currently experience or have previously experienced long-term health-related consequences of COVID-19."
These health effects, they warn, "can exert marked stress on the healthcare system."