Women account for almost two-thirds of long Covid cases, according to a new study

Differences in immune responses could explain the gender gap, say researchers.

Differences in immune responses could explain the gender gap, say researchers.

What do we know about long Covid, the condition that affects one in ten people after being infected with the Covid-19 virus? Well, there's still a lot for medical professionals, academics and society to figure out and understand about it.

Long Covid - when symptoms of Covid-19 such as breathlessness, exhaustion and headaches persist after a person has recovered from the infection - has been described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "devastating" the lives of millions across the world.

Bolstering previous research that suggested women were more likely than men to suffer from long Covid, a new study has shown that women account for almost two-thirds of cases.

The report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that women made up 63% of those living with long Covid. The findings were modelled by researchers after examining 1.2 million people from 22 countries who reported having had symptomatic Covid in 2020 and 2021.

But why are women more likely to suffer from long Covid? Well, there's no definitive answer to that question yet. In their write-up of today's news, The Independent pointed to previous research (published in the American Journal of Managed Care) that suggests different immune responses might explain the gender gap.

The Independent also highlighted the fact that previous studies have found that women, younger people, and individuals from Black, mixed-race or other ethnic groups are at higher risk of getting long Covid.

Speaking to The Guardian, the WHO director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed that urgent action is needed to tackle long Covid. He said:

“While the pandemic has changed dramatically due to the introduction of many lifesaving tools, and there is light at the end of the tunnel, the impact of long Covid for all countries is very serious and needs immediate and sustained action equivalent to its scale.”

He has not only called for research and access to care for those affected to be "ramped up", but has also warned of the "very serious" crisis it presents for countries across the world.

With 1.2 million people finding that their day-to-day activities are adversely affected by long Covid symptoms (according to the Office for National Statistics) it's crucial that the research continues.

Amy Sedghi

Amy Sedghi is a freelance journalist, specialising in health and fitness, travel, beauty, sustainability and cycling.

Having started her career in The Guardian newsroom working with an award-winning team, Amy's proud to have reported on a variety of topics, speaking to a range of voices and travelling far and wide to do so. From interviews on ski lifts to writing up breaking stories outside courtrooms, Amy is used to reporting from a range of locations (she’s even been known to type up a story in a tent).

She also loves being active, spending time outdoors and travelling - with some of her favourite features she’s worked on combining all three. Cycling and eating her way round the Isle of Man, learning to sail on the Côte d'Azur and traversing the Caminito del Rey path in Spain are just some of her highlights.

Covering a diverse range of subjects appeals to Amy. One minute she may be writing about her online styling session with Katie Holmes’ stylist and the next she’s transporting readers to the basketball courts of Haringey where she joined a group trying to lower knife crime in the capital.

While at university, Amy was awarded The Media Society bursary. Following her stint at the Guardian, Amy worked at Google and as well as writing for Marie Claire, she regularly contributes interviews, features and articles to National Geographic Traveller, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, Stylist, Refinery29, Glorious Sport, Cycling Weekly and Rouleur.

When she’s not writing, Amy can be found trying to get through her towering stack of books-to-read, cycling down at Herne Hill Velodrome or looking for the next place to eat and drink with friends.