Just as the different ethnic groups in Israel observed state rules to protect themselves against the COVID-19 pandemic, there were also dissimilarity in the quality of life among survivors in these sectors. One year after infection, Israeli Arabs and Druze report a bigger drop in quality of life than Jews, according to a new study published by researchers at Bar-Ilan University (BIU) in Ramat Gan.
The study, part of a larger cohort project in which researchers regularly followed up those who had been infected with virus to assess various aspects of their health, highlights a significant discrepancy among Arabs and Druze and Jews. The findings, published in the International Journal of Public Health under the title “Changes in Quality of Life Following SARS-CoV-2 Infection Among Jewish and Arab Populations in Israel: A Cross-Sectional Study,” showed that the disparity in quality of life between ethnic groups remained even after accounting for socio-economic differences.
“We embarked on this study to investigate the long-term effects of COVID-19 on minority groups in Israel, given existing health inequalities in the country,” explained the study’s lead author Prof. Michael Edelstein of BIU’s Azrieli Faculty of Medicine. He was assisted by Dr. Jelte Elsinga from Amsterdam University Medical Center in Holland who led the analysis.
Pandemic caused a disease burden
With 754 million cases and 6.8 million reported deaths around the world (as of February 2023), the pandemic has caused a disease burden unprecedented for an infectious agent in modern times. Beyond the acute effects, the long-term health impact of the pandemic remains poorly understood, they wrote. Evidence suggests that 13% of infected individuals still report symptoms attributable to the virus infection, 90 to 150 days after their acute infection.
Well-being was assessed using an accepted quality-of-life instrument measuring five dimensions – mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort and anxiety/depression. There were 881 participants in the study.
“Our results showed that, while pre-COVID quality of life among Jews, Arabs and Druze in our study was initially comparable, at the 12-month mark after infection the Arab and Druze participants reported a quality of life 11% lower than their Jewish counterparts,” Edelstein added.
The team said that their findings carry important implications for understanding the enduring impact of COVID-19 beyond the acute phase of the pandemic. The research suggests that certain populations may be more susceptible to long-term symptoms and a reduced quality of life and worsening pre-existing health disparities. These findings not only have implications for Israel, but also provide valuable insights for global efforts to address the long-term consequences of the pandemic.
“The significance of our research lies in the ability to shed light on the pandemic’s ongoing impact, even as the disease transitions from a public health emergency to a persistent health concern,” Edelstein stressed. “By understanding how the virus affects different communities, we can work towards developing targeted interventions and support systems to mitigate the long-term effects on quality of life.”
As part of the larger cohort project, multiple papers have already been published, and several more are in progress. Moving forward, the researchers said they will continue to study the role of vaccines in lessening the long-term impact of COVID-19 and the pandemic’s economic consequences on employment and income.