One in 20 people in the UK who are neither employed nor seeking paid work are suffering from long Covid, with the figure more than doubling in the past year, official data has revealed.
The proportion is far higher than for the one in 29 people who are unemployed but seeking work who have long Covid symptoms, or the one in 30 employed people who are sufferers, data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.
Individuals who are not employed and are not looking for paid work are classified as being economically inactive.
The data suggests the long-term impacts of the virus could be driving people into this category, or into retirement.
The self-reported data shows that the proportion of economically inactive people with long Covid symptoms jumped from 2.4% in August 2021 to 5% in July 2022. Students and retirees, while also classed as economically inactive, are not included in this figure.
The level of long Covid among retired people has also increased from 1.3% to 2.9% during the same period – and from 1.9% to 3.5% among the unemployed. The level has risen more slowly, from 2% to 3.3% for those who are employed.
The ONS said the increase in long Covid among retired people and the economically inactive “may be driven by people already in these groups developing long Covid symptoms, or people with long Covid moving into these groups from other employment status categories”.
Long Covid has been defined by the ONS as people with symptoms of coronavirus that have persisted for more than four weeks after the initial infection. The most common symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of smell and muscle aches.
The total number of people in the UK suffering from long Covid was estimated to be just under 1.8 million at the beginning of July.
The significant number of people suffering the long-term consequences of the virus is costing the UK up to £1.5bn a year in lost earnings, according to the research from the the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
People left unable to work by the virus are losing an average of £1,100 a month, according to the thinktank.
The rapid spread of Covid-19 infections throughout the UK in the past month has seen staff absence rates soar.
Some employers were forced to close their businesses as the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants left staff too unwell to work.
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