Long Covid is costing the UK £1.5billion in lost earnings a year as the number of unemployed people with the disease rises to nearly 2million, according to new research.
The think tank Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimated 110,000 people are off work at any given time due to long Covid, with those who had lower incomes before the pandemic more likely to suffer.
One in 10 long-term Covid sufferers who have been in the labor force stops work while suffering from the disease, the IFS said.
The findings will put further pressure on the government to address a problem that is expected to grow further as infections pick up again.
While the health impacts have been known for some time, detailed work quantifying the economic impacts has only recently emerged.
The Treasury is understood to be increasingly concerned that the UK labor force has not returned to its pre-pandemic levels. There are almost half a million fewer people than before March 2020 due to a combination of the long Covid and more people choosing early retirement.
The IFS looked at how outcomes for long-sufferers with Covid and similar people without the disease have changed since before the pandemic. Its research showed those affected were more likely to claim benefits, live in poverty and live in public housing, the IFS found.
The impact of Long Covid is ongoing, with an estimated 8 per cent of those infected still unemployed at least three months after infection, although after six months the impact is significantly less and most have returned to work.
The condition causes a range of debilitating symptoms, including extreme fatigue and shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and palpitations.
Treatment varies according to the specific symptoms, with the most severe cases being referred to a specialized rehabilitation service.
Tom Wernham, Research Economist at IFS and author of the report, said: “Although acute Covid no longer poses the serious public health and economic threat it once was, the impact of the long Covid has continued to increase over time . with nearly 2 million now suffering from the disease.
“Our research suggests that for a significant minority of long-term Covid-affected people, the condition is having a serious impact not only on their health but also on their ability to engage in paid work.
“The rising rate of long Covid could therefore put additional strain on families during the cost of living crisis, particularly as long Covid is more common in poorer families, and weigh on a struggling economy – we estimate 110,000 workers are out of work as a result.”