The organization also plans to look at how many study patients were vaccinated and when, Ms. Gelburd said. More than three-quarters of the patients in the study became infected in 2021, most in the last half of the year. On average, patients were still experiencing prolonged Covid symptoms that qualified for diagnosis four and a half months after infection.
The findings suggest a potentially staggering impact of long-running covid on people in the prime of life and on society at large. Nearly 35 percent of the patients were between the ages of 36 and 50, while nearly a third were between the ages of 51 and 64, and 17 percent were between the ages of 23 and 35. Children were also diagnosed with post-Covid conditions: almost 4 percent of patients were 12 years old or younger, while almost 7 percent were between 13 and 22 years old.
Six percent of the patients were 65 or older, a proportion that most likely reflects the fact that patients covered by the regular Medicare program were not included in the study. They were much more likely than the younger groups with prolonged Covid to have had pre-existing chronic medical conditions.
The insurance data analyzed did not include information about the patients’ race or ethnicity, the researchers said.
The analysis, which Ms. Gelburd said was assessed by an independent academic reviewer but not formally peer-reviewed, also calculated a risk score for patients, a way of estimating how likely people are to use medical care. Comparing all insurance claims patients had up to 90 days before contracting Covid with their claims 30 days or more after infection, the study found that average risk scores increased for patients in all age groups. .
Ms Gelburd and other experts said the scores suggested the repercussions of prolonged Covid are not simply limited to increased medical spending. They point out “how many people are leaving their jobs, how many are given disability status, how much absenteeism there is in school,” Ms. Gelburd said. “It’s like a stone thrown into the lake, and these ripples around it are concentric circles of impact.”
Because the study captured only a privately insured population, Dr. Ssentongo said, it almost certainly underestimates the extent and burden of long Covid, especially as low-income communities have been disproportionately affected by the viruses and often have less access to medical care. “I think it could be even worse if we add the Medicaid population and all these other people who would have been missed” in the study data, he said.