(HealthDay News) — Survivors of COVID-19 hospitalization have improvement in physical and mental health over 2 years, but the burden of symptomatic sequelae remains high, according to a study published online in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Lixue Huang, MD, from China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, and colleagues conducted an ambidirectional, longitudinal cohort study of individuals who survived COVID-19 hospitalization and were discharged between Jan. 7 and May 29, 2020. Health outcomes were measured at 6 months, 12 months, and two years after symptom onset. Data from 1192 COVID-19 survivors were included in the final analysis.

The researchers observed a significant decrease in the proportion of COVID-19 survivors with at least one sequelae symptom from 68% at 6 months to 55% at 2 years; the most frequent sequelae were fatigue or muscle weakness. The proportion of COVID-19 survivors with a modified British Medical Research Council dyspnea scale score of at least 1 decreased significantly from 26% at 6 months to 14% at 2 years. In almost all domains, health-related quality of life continued to improve, especially in terms of anxiety or depression, which decreased from 23% at 6 months to 12% at 2 years. Compared with controls, COVID-19 survivors still had more prevalent symptoms and more problems in pain and discomfort as well as anxiety or depression at 2 years.

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“The COVID-19 survivors had not returned to the same health status as the general population 2 years after acute infection, so ongoing follow-up is needed to characterize the protracted natural history of long COVID,” the authors write.

Abstract/Full Text