Research Suggests Risk of Long COVID is Higher for Individuals in Underserved Areas


The risk of long COVID-19 in females in the least deprived areas was comparable to the risk of males in the most deprived areas.

New research has found that the risk of long COVID-19 is strongly associated with area-level deprivation, with the odds of having long COVID 46% higher for those from the most deprived areas compared to those in the least deprived areas.1

Credit: Prostock-studio -

Credit: Prostock-studio -

Investigators analyzed more than 200,000 working-age adults for the study, which they said is the first to quantify the association between long COVID and socioeconomic status across a range of occupation sectors.1

“The inequalities shown in this study show that such an approach can provide more precise identification of risks and be relevant to other diseases and beyond the pandemic,” said lead researcher Nazrul Islam, PhD, MPH, MSc, MBBS, in a press release. “These findings will help inform health policy in identifying the most vulnerable sub-groups of populations so that more focused efforts are given, and proportional allocation of resources are implemented, to facilitate the reduction of health inequalities.”1

Using data from the Office for National Statistics COVID-19 Infection Survey, the researchers found that women had a higher risk of long COVID. Notably, the risk of long COVID in females in the least deprived areas was comparable to the risk of males in the most deprived areas.1

Individuals living in the most deprived areas and working in the health care and education sectors had the highest risk of long COVID compared to the least deprived areas. There was no significant association between the risk of long COVID and the most and least deprived areas for individuals working in the manufacturing and construction sectors.1

“Although certain occupational groups, especially frontline and essential workers, have been unequally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, studies on long COVID and occupation are sparse,” Islam said in the press release. “Our findings are consistent with pre-pandemic research on other health conditions, suggesting that workers with lower socioeconomic status have poorer health outcomes and higher premature mortality than those with higher socioeconomic position but a similar occupation. However, the socioeconomic inequality may vary considerably by occupation groups.”1

Other research has aimed to establish whether certain COVID-19 variants or comorbities affect the likelihood of developing long COVID. For instance, a study recently conducted in Switzerland found that patients are less likely to develop long COVID after contracting the Omicron variant, compared to an earlier, wild-type variant. In that study, investigators noted that most data about long COVID are restricted to the pre-Omicron period of COVID-19.2

In their study of health care workers, the researchers found that those with the wild-type virus had a 67% higher risk of experiencing long COVID symptoms during the first round of questionnaires, which were distributed in March 2021. By the third round, in June 2022, the risk of long COVID was reduced to 37% in patients with the wild-type virus compared to the control.2

Additionally, patients with the Omicron variant were no more likely to report symptoms of long COVID than uninfected participants, nor were they more likely to have a higher rate of fatigue. Interestingly, those who originally had wild-type infection but who were reinfected with Omicron did not have a worse risk of having long COVID or fatigue compared to those who only had wild-type infection.2


  1. Risk of long COVID higher for people living in most deprived areas. News release. University of Southampton. May 11, 2023. Accessed May 18, 2023.
  2. Hunter E. Omicron Less Likely Than Early Variants to Cause Symptoms of Long COVID-19. Pharmacy Times. March 17, 2023. Accessed May 18, 2023.
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