UK workers are losing out on £1,100 ($1,318) worth of earnings on average due to long COVID, new research has found. Across the country, this adds up to almost £1.5bn per year.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Research (IFS), as many as 110,000 employees are missing from work as a result of long COVID, which has been on the rise, with the majority on sick leave rather than losing their job entirely.
Long COVID is defined as reporting symptoms more than four week after infection.
The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that there were almost 2 million people with the conditions as of May 2022. This is double the number from a year before.
New IFS research reveals that having long COVID forces one in 10 sufferers who were in work to stop while they have the condition.
The research also found that those who were less well off before the pandemic are more likely to suffer from long COVID.
Compared to those without long COVID, those with the condition were, pre-pandemic, more likely to be claiming benefits (41% compared to 28%), be in poverty (25% versus 19%) and live in social housing (25% versus 17%).
While previous research has shown that women, those with pre-existing medical conditions and those in poorer parts of the country were more likely to be hit, this is the first evidence showing that long COVID is more prevalent among deprived individuals.
Long COVID’s effects are quite persistent, with evidence of sufferers still missing from work at least three months after infection, though by the six-month mark the effects are considerably smaller and most have returned to work.
Watch: 1 in 4 people suffer from "Long COVID"
“Though acute COVID is no longer the severe threat to public health and the economy that it once was, the impact of long COVID has continued to grow over time, with almost 2 million now suffering from the condition,” Tom Wernham, a research economist at IFS and an author of the report, said.
“Our research suggests that for a significant minority of long COVID sufferers, the condition has severe effects not only on their health but on their ability to do paid work.
“The rising rate of long COVID could therefore put additional strain on families during the cost of living crisis, especially as long COVID is more common among poorer families, as well as drag on a struggling economy – we estimate there are 110,000 workers missing from work as a result.”
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