New Data Lowers Estimate of Long COVID’s Impact: CDC

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Sept. 26, 2023 – An estimated 18 million adults in the U.S. have had long COVID, and half of them are still dealing with the condition, new national survey data shows.

Results from the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey in 2022 found that 6.9% of adults self-reported they had COVID symptoms for at least 3 months after testing positive or being diagnosed by a doctor as having COVID-19. 

The estimate is much lower than previous CDC survey data, which has consistently reported that approximately 14% to 15% of U.S. adults have had long COVID.

The CDC also newly reported that 1.3% of U.S. children have had long COVID, and 0.5% of children having symptoms lasting at least 3 months at the time of the survey in 2022. 

The agency lists 19 possible long COVID symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, a pounding heart, brain fog, and changes in smell or taste, as well as symptoms worsening with physical or mental effort.

The 2022 survey results were analyzed by demographic factors such as income, gender, age, and race or ethnicity to see if groups of people are affected differently by long COVID. 

Wealthy people were the least likely to report having long COVID, while people whose family incomes were well below the federal poverty level were the most likely to have long COVID. Women were more likely than men to ever have long COVID or currently have the condition. People ages 35 to 49 years old were most likely to report having the condition. 

When the researchers looked at how long COVID affected people based on race or ethnicity, the data showed:

  • 8.3% of Hispanic people reported ever having long COVID, and 3.4% were currently affected.
  • 7.1% of White people reported ever having long COVID, and 3.7% were currently affected.
  • 5.4% of Black people reported ever having long COVID, and 2.4% were currently affected.
  • 2.6% of Asian people reported ever having long COVID, and 1.1% were currently affected.

This past summer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the launch of federally funded clinical trials to study long COVID symptoms, treatments, and prevention.