A study published in the Lancet (21/7/23) recently found that people with long Covid (symptoms lasting over 3 months) showed cognitive impairment comparable to aging 10 years. This included worse scores on tests of working memory, attention, reasoning, and motor control. The greatest deficits were seen in those with over 12 weeks of symptoms. However, even over 9 months later, there was no significant improvement in scores. People who fully recovered from Covid, even if they initially had symptoms over 3 months, showed no cognitive impairment. This is some positive news.
The researchers say the level of impairment seen was less than effects like lower education or high fatigue levels. But it was comparable to 10 years of aging or mild/moderate psychological distress.
Over 2 million people in the UK self-report having long Covid symptoms as of early 2023. Commonly reported ones include fatigue, trouble concentrating, shortness of breath, and muscle aches.
The study highlights the need to monitor those most affected cognitively over time to see how symptoms progress and provide support for recovery. More research is needed on why symptoms persist long-term and potential treatments.
In summary, the study provides evidence that long Covid can significantly impact cognition in some people. Supporting those affected and further research should be priorities going forward.