WHAT are the RISKS of LONG COVID for LESS SEVERELY ILL PATIENTS?
By Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.
New data reveals that the risks of long-term symptoms from COVID are quite significant, even for patients who were not hospitalized with more severe forms of the illness. More specifically, 76% of Americans diagnosed with long COVID were not hospitalized. And this finding is based on private insurance claims only, so that it excludes traditional Medicare, Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), and individuals without insurance, so that is likely an underestimate of the breadth of the problem. Estimates of how many people are impacted range from 10-30% of infected adults ( https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/18/health/long-covid-hospitalization.html?searchResultPosition=1 ).
While patients who were hospitalized for the virus are at greater risk for long-term symptoms, even those with mild to moderate forms can have ongoing difficulties with breathing, fatigue, thinking, and memory issues. Between October 1, 2021, and January 31, 2022, more than 78,000 patients were diagnosed with a newly defined condition: Post COVID-19 condition, unspecified. One expert, not involved in the research, described this number as “huge”, since it covered only the first four months after this diagnostic code was introduced, and did not include patients covered by government programs (nor the uninsured).
As could be expected, two-thirds of these long-COVID patients had pre-existing health conditions, about one-third did not. This means that healthier individuals are also at risk for these ongoing difficulties.
More than one-third of these long-COVID patients were between 36-50 years old. Almost one-third were 51-64, and about one-sixth were 23-35. Thus, younger individuals were also at serious risk, especially those under 50. Besides the above issues of breathing, fatigue, thinking, and memory, some people also had difficulties with cardiac health and sleep disorders. Anxiety was more common in the younger group, 23-45; high blood pressure more common in the oldest group, 51-64.
A previous study in 2021 found that 23% of patients with COVID, sought treatment for a new condition one month after their being ill. This is one more indication of the longer lasting impact of the virus. The more typical complaints included muscle problems, lung issues, some brain-related issues.
Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310 539-2772 or firstname.lastname@example.org Telehealth and in-person sessions are available.
Copyright 2022 by Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.