Nearly one-third of Australian adults who’ve had COVID-19 have had symptoms that lasted for longer than four weeks – a common marker of long COVID – according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU).  

This equates to just over 14 per cent of the entire adult population in Australia. 

In addition, nearly five per cent of Australian adults have had COVID-19 symptoms lasting three months or more. 

The study also found that while it’s now likely nearly half of all Australian adults have had COVID-19, it hasn’t spread equally across the population.  

According to lead author Professor Nicholas Biddle, females, young Australians, and those living in middle-income households have the highest probability of contracting COVID-19. 

“This is a snapshot of how Australians have experienced COVID-19 since early 2020,” Professor Biddle said. 

“89.5 per cent of adults surveyed who’ve had COVID-19 reported having symptoms. Those who experienced symptoms of some kind were hit with around 10 different symptoms on average – with the most common being tiredness. 

“Around a quarter of Australians with symptoms experienced 13 or more, while another quarter experienced seven or less. A runny nose or sneezing, sore throat, cough and headache were also common – experienced by around three-quarters of those with symptoms.” 

The study is also one of the first in Australia to look at the impact of long COVID on people’s wellbeing. This builds on recent studies from the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods that showed how various lockdowns affected the mental wellbeing of Australians.  

Professor Biddle said people who suffered multiple symptoms or had long COVID were more likely to report a significant drop in their wellbeing compared to prior to the pandemic. 

“Of those who experienced COVID-19 symptoms, 40.7 per cent said they experienced low mood. Our data suggests those who had symptoms for multiple months were impacted the most,” he said.  

“On the other hand, people who had short experiences with COVID-19 or few symptoms generally didn’t experience a decline in wellbeing compared to those who had not had COVID-19.” 

Read the full study on the impact of lockdowns on Australians’ experience with COVID-19, including long COVID, online. Data from the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods COVID-19 Impact Monitoring Survey series is available to download from the Australian Data Archive.   

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