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AARP Survey: COVID-19 Has Taken Its Toll on 50-Plus Americans

4 in 10 older adults have been infected, and more than a quarter with severe symptoms

spinner image A clear COVID virus cell and the words "Long COVID"
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Not only were older adults hardest hit by COVID-19, a new AARP survey finds that more than half of Americans age 50 and older who were infected had some long COVID symptoms.

More than 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, and 93 percent of those deaths were among adults 50-plus. The AARP online and telephone national survey of 1,795 adults age 50 and older found that more than half of households (53 percent) had someone who had the virus, and among all 50-plus adults 40 percent reported having had the illness. AARP conducted the survey Oct. 14–18. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.27 percent.

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Among those who reported having had lingering symptoms after having been infected, fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, headaches and brain fog were among the most frequent residual problems that lingered sometimes weeks and even months after they were infected. 

The survey also showed that people of color were slightly more likely to have had long COVID symptoms. While 53 percent of white adults had prolonged effects from COVID, 69 percent of Latino, 71 percent of Asian American and 64 percent of Black 50-plus adults had prolonged symptoms.

Other key survey findings include:

  • One-quarter (27 percent) of those infected with COVID had severe symptoms, while two-thirds (68 percent) had moderate to mild symptoms. Unvaccinated adults were more likely to have had severe symptoms. 
  • Unvaccinated adults were more likely to have experienced long COVID, as were those with severe symptoms during their initial infection and those who had COVID two or more times.
  • Among employed respondents, one-third (33 percent) said lingering symptoms of COVID impacted their job in some way.



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