Life After COVID-19 Hospital Stay: Major Lasting Effects on Health, Work and More

“These data suggest that the burden of COVID-19 extends far beyond the hospital and far beyond health,” says Vineet Chopra, M.D., M.Sc., lead author of the study and chief of hospital medicine at Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center. “The mental, financial and physical tolls of this disease among survivors appear substantial.”

Lasting effects

More than 39% of the patients interviewed said they hadn’t gotten back to normal activities yet, two months after leaving the hospital. Twelve percent of the patients said they couldn’t carry out basic care for themselves anymore, or as well as before. 

Nearly 23% said they became short of breath just climbing a flight of stairs. One-third had ongoing COVID-like symptoms, including many who still had problems with taste or smell.

Of those who had jobs before their bout with COVID-19, 40% said they couldn’t return to work; most because of their health and some because they’d lost their job. And 26% of those who had gone back to work said they had to work fewer hours or have reduced duties because of their health.

Nearly half of those interviewed said they’d been emotionally affected by their experience with COVID-19 – including a minority who said they’d sought mental health care. 

More than a third – 37% – of those interviewed said their experience with COVID-19 had left them with at least a minor financial impact. Nearly 10% said they’d used up most or all of their savings, and 7% said they were rationing food, heat, housing or medications because of cost. 

“The sheer number of people struggling after COVID brings new urgency to developing programs to better promote and support recovery after acute illness,” says Hallie Prescott, M.D., M.Sc., senior author and pulmonary/critical care physician at the University of Michigan and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System. 

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