1. Main points
An estimated 1.3 million people living in private households in the UK (2.0% of the population) were experiencing self-reported long COVID (symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected coronavirus (COVID-19) infection that were not explained by something else) as of 6 December 2021.
The estimates presented in this analysis relate to self-reported long COVID, as experienced by study participants who responded to a representative survey, rather than clinically diagnosed ongoing symptomatic COVID-19 or post-COVID-19 syndrome in the full population.
Of people with self-reported long COVID, 270,000 (21%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 less than 12 weeks previously; 892,000 people (70%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least 12 weeks previously, and 506,000 (40%) first had (or suspected they had) COVID-19 at least one year previously.
The proportion of people with self-reported long COVID who reported that it reduced their ability to carry out daily activities remained stable compared with previous months; symptoms adversely affected the day-to-day activities of 809,000 people (64% of those with self-reported long COVID), with 247,000 (20%) reporting that their ability to undertake their day-to-day activities had been “limited a lot”.
Fatigue continued to be the most common symptom reported as part of individuals' experience of long COVID (51% of those with self-reported long COVID), followed by loss of smell (37%), shortness of breath (36%), and difficulty concentrating (28%).
As a proportion of the UK population, prevalence of self-reported long COVID was greatest in people aged 35 to 69 years, females, people living in more deprived areas, those working in health care, social care, or teaching and education (which saw the biggest month-on-month increase out of all employment sectors), and those with another activity-limiting health condition or disability.
If you are worried about new or ongoing symptoms four or more weeks after having COVID-19, there are resources available to help: see the NHS webpage on the long-term effects of coronavirus and the NHS Your COVID Recovery website, which can help you to understand what has happened and what you might expect as part of your recovery. The time it takes to recover from COVID-19 is different for everyone, and the length of your recovery is not necessarily related to the severity of your initial illness or whether you were in hospital.
This is analysis of new, recently collected data, and our understanding of it and its quality will improve over time. Long COVID is an emerging phenomenon that is not yet fully understood. The estimates presented in this release are experimental statistics, which are series of statistics that are in the testing phase and not yet fully developed.
3. Measuring the data
This analysis was based on 351,850 responses to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey (CIS) collected over the four-week period ending 6 December 2021, weighted to represent people aged two years and over living in private households in the UK. Self-reported long COVID was defined as symptoms persisting for more than four weeks after the first suspected coronavirus infection that were not explained by something else. Parents and carers answered survey questions on behalf of children aged under 12 years.
Date of first (suspected) COVID-19 infection was taken to be the earliest of: date of first positive test for COVID-19 during study follow-up; date of first self-reported positive test for COVID-19 outside of study follow-up; date of first suspected COVID-19 infection, as reported by the participant. Those with an unknown date of first (suspected) COVID-19 infection are in the estimates for “any duration”, but not in duration specific estimates.
The definition of self-reported long COVID in this release is consistent with that used for “Approach 3” in our recently published technical article on the prevalence of post-acute symptoms 4 or 12 weeks after COVID-19 infection. The estimates in this release are expressed out of everyone in the population; in contrast, the denominator for the estimates in our technical article is the number of infected people in the study sample. A further difference is that this analysis is based on confirmed and suspected COVID-19 infections, whereas the estimates in the technical article include only laboratory-confirmed cases.
The focus of this analysis is the population prevalence of self-reported long COVID. For data on the impact of long COVID, see results from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey and the Schools Infection Survey.
The strengths and limitations of this analysis are described in a previous release. The survey questions relating to self-reported long COVID can be found in Section F of the enrolment and Section D of the follow-up CIS questionnaires. See Tables 2a to 2f of the technical datasets accompanying the latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey statistical bulletin for survey response rates.Back to table of contents
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