Half of the patients hospitalised for Covid-19 have at least one symptom even after two years of contracting the virus, according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal.

The aim of the study was to characterise long-term effects of the infection on the health of hospital survivors and to determine their recovery status.

The researchers assessed 1,192 patients of the Jin Yin-tan Hospital in China’s Wuhan city. The participants included those who had survived and been discharged between January 7, 2020 and May 29, 2020. Their assessment was completed after three follow-up visits.

“We measured health outcomes for six months [June 16-September 3, 2020], 12 months [December 16, 2020-February 7, 2021], and two years [November 16, 2021-January 10, 2022] with a six-minute walking distance test, laboratory tests, and a series of questionnaires on symptoms, mental health, health-related quality of life, return to work, and health-care use after discharge,” the study said.

The team found that regardless of severity of the initial disease, Covid-19 survivors had reported long-term improvements in physical and mental health.

“Eighty-nine per cent of Covid-19 survivors who had a job before Covid-19 have returned to their original work, regardless of initial disease severity,” it said.

The proportion of participants reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression dropped significantly from 23% during the six-month visit to 12% during the two-year visit.

However, the survivors still had more symptoms and lower health-related quality of life than they did before the pandemic. “Covid-19 survivors had a remarkably lower health status than the general population at two years,” the study said.

Fatigue or muscle weakness was the most frequently reported symptom throughout all the three follow-up visits.

“Long Covid symptoms at the two-year follow-up were related to decreased health-related quality of life and exercise capacity, psychological abnormality, and increased use of healthcare after discharge,” it added.

The researchers said that follow-ups are needed to better characterise the pathogenesis or the history of long Covid and to establish when the survivors will fully recover.

“There is an urgent need to also develop effective interventions to reduce the risk of long Covid,” the study stated.

Another United Kingdom-based study conducted in late April said that “not even one in four people” have fully recovered from Covid-19 after a year of hospitalisation, NDTV reported.

The researchers had warned that long Covid could become a common condition.

“The limited recovery from five months to one year after hospitalisation in our study across symptoms, mental health, exercise capacity, organ impairment and quality-of-life is striking,” said study co-leader Rachel Evans of the National Institute for Health and Care Research, NDTV reported.

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