More than half of adults age 50 and over who were infected with COVID-19 experienced lingering symptoms associated with long COVID, medically known as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 (PASC), according to a recent AARP survey.
The experience of long COVID — a phenomenon characterized by symptoms lasting four weeks or longer after initial infection — is more common among the unvaccinated, those with severe initial COVID symptoms, and those who have been infected with COVID two or more times, according to the survey results.
The findings also reveal racial and ethnic differences in those who experience long COVID. Asian American adults, Hispanic/Latino adults, and Black adults were more likely to have lingering COVID symptoms, at least to a small extent, when compared to adults overall and white adults. Seven in 10 Latino adults (69%) and Asian American adults (71%) said they experienced COVID symptoms for four weeks or longer. More than six in 10 Black adults (64%) and slightly over half of white adults (53%) had prolonged symptoms.
Fatigue, cough, shortness of breath, headaches, and brain fog were among the most frequently reported symptoms to linger weeks and months after a COVID-19 infection. Among those who experience ongoing symptoms, 41% continue to cough and 19% suffer from cognitive problems like brain fog.
Most adults have not visited a health care provider to address their ongoing symptoms. When people do see a provider, they are significantly more likely to be 65 and over.
The impact is being felt in the workplace. A third of employed people experiencing ongoing symptoms say it has affected their job in some way. Those with annual incomes of $60,000 or less are also significantly more likely to experience work-related impacts. The extent of the financial implications of long COVID are still unclear, but 24% report quarantining without pay, reducing work hours, or quitting a job.
COVID vaccines protected adults from serious illness and from long COVID, the survey found. More than six in 10 (64%) unvaccinated adults age 50-plus experienced long COVID compared to half of adults who were either fully vaccinated and boosted or had some vaccine protection.
Vaccination rates, meanwhile, appear to have plateaued, with the percent of fully vaccinated and boosted adults unchanged between March 2022 and October 2022.
This AARP survey was fielded among 1,795 adults age 50-plus to understand the ongoing story of COVID and long COVID among older adults. The online and telephone national survey was conducted October 14–18, 2022 and weighted to the latest Current Population Survey (CPS) benchmarks developed by the U.S. Census Bureau. Included in the sample of adults were oversamples of Black adults (N=398), Hispanic/Latino adults (N=347), and Asian American adults (N=165) to better understand those populations.
Mehegan, Laura. The Long Road of Long COVID: An Exploratory Survey of Adults Age 50-Plus. Washington, DC: AARP Research, May 2022. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00542.001