More than one million people in the UK with long Covid are likely to have first had coronavirus at least a year ago, while half a million first had the virus more than two years ago, new figures suggest.
A total of 2.3 million people across the country are now estimated to be suffering from long Covid, or 3.5% of the population.
This includes around one in 20 people aged 35 to 69.
The figures have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and are based on self-reported long Covid from a representative sample of people in private households in the four weeks to September 3.
An estimated 2.3 million people – 3.5% of the UK population – had self-reported long COVID as of 3 September 2022.
— Office for National Statistics (ONS) (@ONS) October 6, 2022
They show that of the 2.3 million people estimated to have long Covid, 1.1 million (46% of the total) first had Covid-19, or suspected they had the virus, at least 12 months ago.
Some 514,000 (22%) first had Covid at least two years previously.
The estimates cannot be compared directly with previous long Covid surveys published by the ONS, due to a change in the way the data has been collected.
But they suggest there are sharp differences in the prevalence of long Covid among age groups and occupations.
An estimated 5.0% (around one in 20) of 35-69 year-olds are likely to be suffering from long Covid, compared with 3.6% of 25-34 year-olds, 2.9% of people aged 70 and over and 2.7% of 17-24 year-olds.
People working in social care reported the highest prevalence of long Covid among employment groups (5.5%), followed by civil servants and local government staff (5.2%) and health care employees and teachers (5.0%).
Levels were lower among occupations such as financial services (3.4%), hospitality (3.5%) and information technology (3.8%).
Long Covid is likely to be adversely affecting the day-to-day activities of 1.6 million people – nearly three-quarters of those with self-reported long Covid – with 342,000 saying their ability to undertake day-to-day activities has been “limited a lot”, the ONS found.
Fatigue is the most common symptom (experienced by 69% of those with long Covid), followed by difficulty concentrating (45%), shortness of breath (42%) and muscle ache (40%).
There is no standard measure for long Covid, with the ONS using a definition based on symptoms that have persisted for more than four weeks after a first suspected coronavirus infection, where the symptoms could not be explained by something else.