Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) surveys the Australian population to capture their sentiments and behaviours related to current economic and social issues
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Long COVID linked to mental distress, unemployment and is affecting more women than men
Long COVID is a new condition where the many varied symptoms of the SARS-COV2 virus last more than one month. Several large-scale studies are attempting to measure the prevalence of long COVID in the population and its long-term impact. In this TTPN report, we examine the association between long COVID and mental distress and employment.
Large growth in positive COVID cases between March and September 2022
The proportion of the population who have ever tested positive for COVID-19 increased dramatically from 15.1% in March 2022 to 48.9% in September 2022, following the winter peak in COVID cases. 81.5% of all those testing positive did so between March and September 2022. 6.1% of those testing positive have caught COVID more than once.
Of those who tested positive, 15.5%, or about 6.2% of the adult population (equivalent to around 1.2 million people), reported that their symptoms lasted for more than one month. 6% of those testing positive, about 2.4% of the adult population, reported symptoms lasting for 3 months or more. 8.2% of those with long COVID reported having been infected more than once, compared to only 5.9% for those who had COVID once.
Women are more likely to report having long COVID. 17.9% of women who have tested positive reported long COVID, compared to 12.8% of men. Of those aged 18 to 29 who tested positive, 9.2% reported long COVID. This rises to 14.3% for those aged 30 to 49, 22.1% for those aged 50 to 69, and 14.9% for those aged over 70 years old.
The effects of long COVID
Long COVID symptoms can influence daily functioning. Figure 1 shows that those with long COVID are more likely to report more severe symptoms, the most common include shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction or 'brain fog' and fatigue.
The symptoms of COVID are associated with higher levels of mental distress (Figure 2). For example, 15.8% of those with long COVID feel depressed or anxious most of the time, compared to 9.2% for those who experienced symptoms for less than one month.
Those with long COVID are 7.2 percentage points less likely to be employed compared to those who have experienced COVID symptoms for less than one month (Figure 3).
Almost half of the Australian adult population have now had COVID-19. Long COVID affects a large proportion of the population who can have severe symptoms not usually associated with having a cold or the flu. These symptoms are associated with high levels of mental distress and unemployment, affect women more than men, and across all age groups, especially those aged between 50 to 69.
Having a booster is the best long-term defence against the effects of COVID, yet rates of booster vaccinations remain dangerously low and immunity is waning. The Australian government needs to significantly increase booster shots using the best evidence on how to do this successfully.
This Taking the Pulse of the Nation insight was authored by Professor Anthony Scott, at the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, 27 October 2022.
*Beginning in April 2020, the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) was conceptualised and implemented by a group of researchers at the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research. In 2022, the Melbourne Institute and Roy Morgan formed a partnership to extend the running of the TTPN. Each wave includes a set of core questions, as well as additional questions that address current and emerging issues facing Australians. The sample is stratified to reflect the Australian adult population in terms of age, gender, and location. The TTPN Survey uses a repeated cross-sectional design. This report is based on a total of 1,013 respondents from data collected in September 2022. If you are interested in adding questions to the survey or accessing the data, please contact us at: email@example.com.
© The University of Melbourne & Roy Morgan- Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, 2022. This work is copyright. The material may be reproduced and distributed for non-commercial purposes only, subject to the inclusion of an acknowledgement of the source(s).