Most health issues arising from long COVID would remain for several months and be resolved within a year of diagnosis if the infection was mild, a recent study has found.
The study, published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), analyzed electronic health records from the comprehensive database of Maccabi Healthcare Services, the second-largest health maintenance organization in Israel.
The study involved the complete data of 299,855 eligible individuals, who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 1, 2020, and Oct. 1, 2021, and had not been hospitalized within a month of their diagnosis.
“Although the long COVID phenomenon has been feared and discussed since the beginning of the pandemic, we observed that most health outcomes arising after a mild disease course remained for several months and returned to normal within the first year,” the study concluded.
This suggests that “mild disease does not lead to serious or chronic long-term morbidity in the vast majority of patients,” the study said.
Long COVID, also known as post-COVID-19 conditions, refers to experiencing physical or psychological symptoms more than 12 weeks after getting infected with the virus, according to Health Canada.
The most common symptoms include fatigue, memory problems, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, anxiety and depression.
Overall, the study found dyspnoea — also known as shortness of breath — to be the most common symptom of long COVID, which was reported in five of the six age groups, including adults aged 19-40, 41-60, and over 60 years old.
The number of symptoms varied among different age groups, with the 41-60 years old subgroup experiencing the highest number of long COVID health outcomes, the study showed.
The study also noted that an infection would not be considered mild in older people if several symptoms persisted, resulting in patients being admitted to the hospital.
Patients who were vaccinated against COVID were also found to be less likely to have symptoms like shortness of breath, according to the study. Children were found to have fewer long COVID health outcomes as compared to adults and their symptoms were mostly resolved in the late period.
A joint report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Statistics Canada previously found that among adults who self-reported a positive COVID-19 test or a suspected infection three or more months ago, 14.8 per cent experienced longer-term symptoms.
The report, published in October 2022, surveyed a random sample of 29,853 Canadian adults between April 1 and Aug. 31, 2022.
The most commonly reported longer-term COVID symptoms were fatigue, tiredness or loss of energy — experienced by 72.1 per cent of Canadian adults.
In terms of how long such COVID symptoms usually remained, 47.3 per cent of Canadian adults reported having experiences lasting one year or longer.