Dr Lucy Cheke, Sidney Fellow and a researcher in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Psychology, is the senior author of the paper that suggests society will face a ‘long tail’ of workforce illness due to long COVID.

Lucy and a team of researchers at the University conducted a study into the impact of long COVID on cognitive impairment.

Study participants were recruited between October 2020 and March 2021, when the Alpha variant and the original form of SARS-CoV-2 was circulating in the population. Participants will continue to be monitored, using both symptom reports and objective cognitive tests, to see how long their symptoms persist.

The study found:

  • around 70% of long COVID patients in the study experienced difficulty concentrating and memory problems several months after infection with the virus SARS-CoV-2;
  • long COVID sufferers performed worse on cognitive tests
  • the severity of these symptoms was linked to the level of fatigue and neurological symptoms, like dizziness and headache, experienced during initial COVID-19 illness
  • half of the patients in the study reported difficulties in getting medical professionals to take their symptoms seriously
  • 75% of study participants with severe ongoing symptoms of long COVID reported long periods of being unable to work

Lucy commented, “Long COVID has received very little attention politically or medically. It urgently needs to be taken more seriously, and cognitive issues are an important part of this. When politicians talk about ‘Living with COVID’ – that is, unmitigated infection, this is something they ignore. The impact on the working population could be huge.”

The University recently posted the feature, Memory and concentration problems are common in long COVID and must not be ignored, say scientists, to highlight the findings from the study.

References for peer-reviewed research

Guo, P. et al: ‘COVCOG 1: Factors predicting Physical, Neurological and Cognitive Symptoms in Long COVID: A First Publication from the COVID and Cognition Study.’ Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, March 2022. DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.804922 [open access]

Guo, P. et al: ‘COVCOG 2: Cognitive and Memory Deficits in Long COVID: A Second Publication from the COVID and Cognition Study.’ Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, March 2022. DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2022.804937 [open access]

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