Thousands of people may not be working due to Long COVID, new research shows

Date published

Nearly 30,000 people in the UK may be unable to work because of Long COVID, a new study led by Leicester researchers has revealed.

Daniel Ayoubkhani and a consortium of academics have estimated that 27,000 adults in the UK were not working nor looking for work in July 2022 due to developing self-reported Long COVID symptoms.

Funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East Midlands, the study saw researchers examine COVID-19 Infection Survey data from 206,299 working-age adults from February 2021 to September 2022 to estimate the association between Long COVID and employment outcomes.

Compared with pre-infection, the odds of work inactivity were approximately 40 per cent higher in participants reporting Long COVID seven to 12 months post-infection.

The odds of long-term workplace absence were also elevated in people with self-reported Long COVID compared with pre-infection, being over 40 per cent higher four to seven months post-infection.

Daniel Ayoubkhani, PhD student at the University of Leicester and principal statistician at the Office for National Statistics, said: “By integrating our findings with official data on Long COVID prevalence, our estimates indicate that as of July 2022, approximately 27,000 working-age adults in the UK may have been experiencing work inactivity directly attributable to the condition.

“The study results highlight the significant impact of Long COVID on employment, but the contribution of other factors – such as indirect health effects of the pandemic and extended healthcare waiting lists – remains unknown, and further research is required.”

Co-author Professor Kamlesh Khunti, Director of NIHR ARC East Midlands and the Real World Evidence Unit and Professor of Primary Care Diabetes and Vascular Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: “This research reveals a significant association between the challenges of returning to work and the lingering effects of Long COVID.

“It underscores the need for a compassionate and supportive approach to those grappling with this extended illness.”

He added: “Understanding the intersection of health and employment is crucial in navigating the complexities of Long COVID and fostering a more inclusive recovery for all.

“Further research is required to quantify the contribution of other factors, such as indirect health effects of the pandemic.”

To read the study, click here.