Long COVID: Women, Hispanics and lower-income Michiganders hit hardest

An image of the Michigan state flag with a face mask that says COVID-19.

New MI CReSS Report

Long COVID was more prevalent among women, Hispanics and those with lower incomes, according to the most recent Michigan COVID-19 Recovery Surveillance Study report.

The report also shows that those with a Body Mass Index over 30 are also more likely to have long-term post-COVID symptoms.

The Michigan COVID-19 Recovery Surveillance Study, or MI CReSS—a joint collaboration between the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services—is a population-based survey geared toward collecting data from adults who have recovered from COVID-19.

"There needs to be more of an emphasis on the weight of long COVID and that it is going to have a bigger impact than I think people might realize," said Elizabeth Slocum, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and lead author of the report. "These data provide a more confident estimate of long COVID, given that it was over a longer time period during the pandemic."

Study co-author and senior investigator Nancy Fleischer, associate professor of Epidemiology, says the report highlights that some subgroups of the population are more affected than others.

"We need to recognize that there are people who are suffering long-term consequences from having had COVID-19 and that's going to continue to affect them into the future," she said. "And so the clinics and hospitals and physicians and the public health system need to be aware that this is an ongoing part of the pandemic."

Slocum, Fleischer and colleagues recruited 9,000 noninstitutionalized adults in Michigan—those who were not in prisons or psychiatric hospitals—with COVID-19 onset prior to April 15, 2021. Among the roughly 2,700 adults surveyed, 21.4% were classified as having long COVID—defined as prolonged or persistent symptoms lasting at least 90 days following onset of COVID-19.

Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath and impaired cognitive or physical function. Individuals affiliated with long COVID typically report fluctuating and sporadic periods of symptoms.

The researchers found that long COVID:

  • Was more prevalent among females, Hispanic respondents and those over 75 years old.
  • Was more prevalent among people with very severe COVID-19 symptoms compared to those with no or less severe symptoms and for people with an overnight hospital stay compared to those who were not hospitalized. 
  • Was more prevalent among respondents with less than a high school education and among those with incomes lower than $50,000 a year.
  • Was experienced by 27% of those reporting a preexisting condition such as an immunosuppressive condition, COPD or emphysema, cancer or heart disease.
  • Included the following common, ongoing symptoms: fatigue, loss of sense of smell or taste, memory loss, brain fog, shortness of breath, general weakness, joint pain and hair loss.