This One Thing Spikes Your Risk of Long COVID by 55 Percent, New Study Finds

The latest research says this can be a major determining factor in developing the condition.

After more than two and a half years of living with COVID-19, it's almost becoming easy to forget that the virus is still spreading. Recent numbers show that the U.S.'s two-week daily new case average is holding flat at 37,665, as of Oct. 31, per The New York Times. But besides the many people contracting the virus, there are also those suffering from its effects weeks and months after clearing their initial infections with long COVID. As time passes, scientists are finally getting more answers on the condition—including who it's more likely to affect. Read on to see what one new study says could increase your risk of long COVID by 55 percent.

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Recent studies have shown that the number of people with long COVID "is increasing."

medical professional performing covid test
Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock

Over time, the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has kept the medical community on its toes. Each new subvariant has opened the possibility of increased transmissibility or a change in the severity of the illness it can cause. But recent research has also shown that the issues with long COVID might be becoming more common overall among those who get infected.

In a study conducted by a group of scientists at the City University of New York (CUNY), which has not yet been peer-reviewed, researchers used survey results taken from 3,042 respondents in the U.S. between June 30 and July 2. Questions covered COVID-19 testing and its outcomes for each patient, which symptoms they experienced, and whether they had developed lingering symptoms after their initial infection. Analysis showed that as much as 21 percent of respondents said they were living with long COVID four weeks out from their initial infection, The Daily Beast reported.

The researchers pointed out that their findings showed a slight spike compared to a long COVID study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in June, which found that 19 percent of patients reported struggling with the lingering condition. "Despite an increased level of protection against long COVID from vaccination, it may be that the total number of people with long COVID in the U.S. is increasing," Denis Nash, PhD, an epidemiologist and lead author of the CUNY study, told The Daily Beast, clarifying that more people are reporting suffering from the prolonged side effects each day than are recovering from them.

Our understanding of the symptoms long COVID can cause is also becoming more apparent as time passes. According to the CDC, those who develop the condition can experience "a wide range of symptoms that can last more than four weeks or even months after infection," including everything from fever and general malaise to serious respiratory and heart problems and neurological symptoms such as "brain fog," among others.

A new study finds that one thing could increase your risk of contracting long COVID by 55 percent.

Sick woman on couch

Now, new research is showing which people might be more susceptible to an extended bout with the virus. The latest information comes from an online survey of 41,415 adults conducted during the two weeks ending on Oct. 17 by the U.S. Census Bureau (USCB) and National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). As one of the questions, respondents were asked if they were suffering from long COVID, defined as "any symptoms lasting three months or longer that you did not have prior to having coronavirus or COVID-19."

Results showed that 14 percent of adults in the U.S. have experienced the lingering at some point since the beginning of the pandemic, while seven percent—or roughly 18 million people—currently report having it, CNBC reports. But it also exposed a significant variation: While nearly 11 percent of male respondents said they had developed long COVID, more than 17 percent of female respondents said they had experienced the ongoing symptoms, marking a 55 percent increase.

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Other recent studies have found similar susceptibilities to long COVID.

A lab technician looks at samples through a microscope

The latest survey isn't the only new research that has found that women appear to be more likely to develop long COVID. A study published on Oct. 27 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) collected survey responses from 16,091 respondents who had tested positive for COVID-19 at least two months prior. Results showed that 18 percent of patients still reporting symptoms after two months were women, compared to 10 percent who were men.

Other previous research has suggested the same connection. In a study presented in April at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases in Lisbon, researchers analyzed data from a group of 428 patients comprised of 251 men and 174 women treated in outpatient service for COVID-19 recovery from June 2020 to June 2021. The findings shed light on typical symptoms caused by the original strain of the virus and the Alpha variant, which were both dominant at different points during the data period. However, they also found that women in the group were twice as likely as men to report developing long COVID.

One study published in March 2021 from the University of Glasgow found that women under the age of 50 were seven times more likely to report feeling breathless and twice as likely to report ongoing fatigue compared to men seven months after they were treated for COVID-19, Forbes reported. And another study published the same month conducted by researchers at the University of Leicester concluded that women between the ages of 40 and 60 were the most likely patients to be affected by long COVID.

Data also suggests that variants and subvariants could play a role.

A man lying on the couch with tissues around him feeling symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu

Besides the findings on women being more likely to develop long COVID, the USCB and NCHS data also shed light on how severe the lingering condition could be for either sex. Results showed that while 1.3 percent of men said that the long-term symptoms reduced their "ability to carry out day-to-day activities" compared to before their bout with COVID-19, roughly 2.4 percent of women reported the same, CNBC reports.

However, the JAMA study also established some other connections between outcomes and strains of the virus. Research showed that 60 percent of patients who developed long COVID had contracted the original version of the virus, while 17 and 10 percent were infected with the Delta and Omicron variants, respectively, CNBC reports. It also found that 87 percent of patients who reported developing long COVID were unvaccinated.

"There may be differences in these strains and how likely they are to cause long COVID that could teach us something about why this happens," Roy Perlis, MD, the lead author of the JAMA study and co-director of the Center for Quantitative Health at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNBC.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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