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More than a quarter of people with Covid infection develop Long Covid, new research reveals

Posted on 30 April 2024

More than a quarter of people with Covid infection develop Long Covid, new research reveals

The study also reveals that one in four people with Long Covid will experience brain fog and one in three to four will develop anxiety or depression.

However, the findings of the study, published in the journal General Hospital Psychiatry, suggest that full Covid vaccination makes sufferers four times less likely to have brain fog –  a term used to describe symptoms including poor concentration, feeling confused and cognitive impairment. 

Long-term sickness

With Long COVID a key factor in the record 2.8 million people off work in the UK due to long-term sickness, the researchers are calling for yearly COVID-19 vaccinations to be rolled out and should include all working-age people. 

The study reviewed 17 studies from around the world involving more than 40,000 Long COVID patients. It was carried out in collaboration with the STIMULATE-ICP project, which is a £6.8 million NIHR-funded national research project led by University College London.


Lead author, Professor Christina van der Feltz-Cornelis, Chair of Psychiatry and Epidemiology at the Department of Health Sciences and at the University of York and Hull Medical School (HYMS), said: “I was struck by the figures that emerged from our study because they make it clear just how many people around the world are being affected by this debilitating condition.” 

“The discovery of a significant reduction in the risk of brain fog after Covid vaccination is particularly important in this context and provides support for continuation and extension of vaccination programmes, particularly to working-age people. 

“There is a societal tendency in the UK to think Covid is over, but Long Covid is having a profound and lasting effect on individuals and society as a whole, with many people leaving the workplace due to the condition. This is placing a heavy burden on the economy.” 


Long Covid is a chronic condition following a Covid infection which affects an estimated 1.9 million people in the UK. Symptoms can include breathlessness, heart palpitations, joint pain and concentration problems.

The findings of the research also indicate that the mental health symptoms and brain fog experienced by people with Long Covid can actually get worse for many people over time. 24 months after acute infections, people were three to four times more likely to develop brain fog compared to during the peak of their Covid infection. The risk of developing depression or anxiety rose approximately 1.5 times in the same timeframe. 


Professor van der Feltz - Cornelis added: “This finding indicating that the condition often gets worse over time is concerning. It could be due to a decline in people’s mental health as living with Long Covid and the uncertainty that comes with the condition takes its toll. However, some early evidence suggests that living with Long Covid affects nerve cells in the brain so that might play a role as well.

“With so many people suffering from the severe effects of this condition, our study clearly points to the need for greater support, in addition to sustained vaccination programmes. We are very lucky to be one of the only countries to have dedicated Long Covid centres, but we need more joined-up treatment of the mental and physical symptoms of the condition and greater resources for effective treatments, rehabilitation and occupational therapy so that people are able to recover and avoid losing their careers and livelihoods. ”