Women are more likely to suffer from long COVID - study

The likelihood of females developing long COVID is 22% higher than males, new research suggests. It also found that the genders experience different symptoms.

 National Covid Memorial Wall, a dedication of thousands of hand-painted hearts and messages for those in the UK who have died from COVID-19, is seen amid the coronavirus disease pandemic in London (photo credit: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE)
National Covid Memorial Wall, a dedication of thousands of hand-painted hearts and messages for those in the UK who have died from COVID-19, is seen amid the coronavirus disease pandemic in London
(photo credit: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE)

Long COVID is likely to affect women significantly worse than men, a new study has revealed.

Published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, the study found that women were 22% more likely to suffer from Post Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), most commonly known as "long COVID," than men. It goes on to explain key differences in symptoms between the two sexes.

Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers are still learning about the effects of the virus, including how many people suffer from "long COVID" – when symptoms of the disease linger long past infection. 

 Israelis waiting on line for COVID tests at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, January 9, 2021.   (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Israelis waiting on line for COVID tests at Habima Square in Tel Aviv, January 9, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

A separate study, released last month, found that 30% of people treated for COVID-19 developed PASC. 

Looking at data from 1.3 million patients,  researchers from the women's health team at the Johnson & Johnson Office of the Chief Medical Officer in the US found that women with long COVID present a variety of symptoms including ear, nose and throat issues, and mood, neurological, skin, gastrointestinal and rheumatological disorders, as well as fatigue.

In contrast, men, were more likely to experience endocrine issues such as diabetes and kidney disorders.

Why are women more likely to experience long COVID?

"There may be disparities in access to care based on gender"

Current Medical Research and Opinion

Researchers noted that certain female-dominated professions, such as nursing and teaching, may put them at a greater risk of catching the virus. 

"There may be disparities in access to care based on gender that could affect the natural history of the disease, leading to more complications and sequela," the paper says.

The authors said that studies on the specific conditions that are caused by the virus, and its long-term damage to the body, have been understudied in regard to gender.

“Sex differences in outcomes have been reported during previous coronavirus outbreaks,” the authors said. “Therefore, differences in outcomes between females and males infected with SARS-CoV-2 could have been anticipated. Unfortunately, most studies did not evaluate or report granular data by sex, which limited sex-specific clinical insights that may be impacting treatment.”