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Women more likely than men to suffer 'long COVID', study finds



Women are 22 per cent more likely than men to suffer from mysterious "long COVID", and they will experience a different set of debilitating symptoms to males, according to a massive study of 1.3 million coronavirus survivors.

Researchers from pharma giant Johnson & Johnson observed females with long COVID endured ear, nose, and throat issues; mood, neurological, skin, gastrointestinal and rheumatological disorders; and fatigue.

Men with long COVID, a syndrome in which complications persist more than four weeks after the initial infection of COVID-19, sometimes for many months, were more likely to encounter endocrine disorders such as diabetes and kidney disorders, the study found.

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"Differences in immune system function between females and males could be an important driver of sex differences in long COVID syndrome," the study's authors wrote in the peer-reviewed study.

"Females mount more rapid and robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which can protect them from initial infection and severity.

"However, this same difference can render females more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune-related diseases."

After the first months of the pandemic, people who developed what is now known as long COVID were also called "long haulers".

Many long haulers complained that their GPs, employers or family members did not understand or recognise the symptoms they were struggling with, months after they had shaken off the first effects of the virus.

Online support groups emerged, where members plagued by lingering effects shared stories about brain fog, breathing problems, stomach issues, fatigue, pain, anxiety or depression.

Scientists are so far uncertain why some people suffer long COVID and others don't, but an earlier study has estimated 37 per cent of patients suffered at least one long COVID symptom three to six months after infection.

READ MORE: Inside the frightening world of 'long haulers'

A registered nurse is seen wearing PPE at a Bondi Beach COVID-19 drive-through testing clinic, in Sydney, Australia.

READ MORE: How 'Long COVID' leaves survivors facing strange, frightening futures

A study released this week by UNSW's Kirby Institute estimated at least four million Australian adults had contracted the virus by February this year.

Assuming more than one-third of people will experience long COVID, and the Johnson & Johnson analysis is accurate, 1.4 million Australians may be long haulers, and Australian women with long COVID could number close to one million.

When looking at the early onset of COVID-19, Johnson & Johnson researchers noted female patients were "far more likely" to experience mood disorders such as depression, ear, nose, and throat symptoms, musculoskeletal pain, and respiratory symptoms.

Male patients, on the other hand, were prone to renal disorders which affect the kidneys.

According to latest federal government data, there have been at least 7.7 million coronavirus cases in Australia since the pandemic began in 2020, which reflects people catching COVID-19 more than once.

COVID-19 Recovery Collective is a group offering support to those recovering coronavirus but still suffering from long COVID.

READ MORE: Australia's true number of COVID-19 cases drastically underreported

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