Roy Morgan Research
October 27, 2022

Long COVID linked to mental distress, unemployment and is affecting more women than men

Topic: Taking The Pulse of the Nation (TTPN)
Finding No: 9107
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Taking The Pulse of the Nation

Informing Australian economic & social policy.

A Melbourne Institute & Roy Morgan partnership

Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) surveys the Australian population to capture their sentiments and behaviours related to current economic and social issues

Since 2020, the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) survey has collected compelling information on the changing behaviours and attitudes of Australians. Together, Melbourne Institute and Roy Morgan understand the value in capturing the voices of Australians on the issues that matter right now. We use this information to create expert analyses to directly inform social and economic policies for our Nation.

This survey data is available to the public upon request. Please contact us for more information and access.

Long COVID linked to mental distress, unemployment and is affecting more women than men

Long COVID is a new condition where the many varied symptoms of the SARS-COV2 virus last more than one month. Several large-scale studies are attempting to measure the prevalence of long COVID in the population and its long-term impact. In this TTPN report, we examine the association between long COVID and mental distress and employment.

Large growth in positive COVID cases between March and September 2022

The proportion of the population who have ever tested positive for COVID-19 increased dramatically from 15.1% in March 2022 to 48.9% in September 2022, following the winter peak in COVID cases. 81.5% of all those testing positive did so between March and September 2022. 6.1% of those testing positive have caught COVID more than once.

Long COVID

Of those who tested positive, 15.5%, or about 6.2% of the adult population (equivalent to around 1.2 million people), reported that their symptoms lasted for more than one month. 6% of those testing positive, about 2.4% of the adult population, reported symptoms lasting for 3 months or more. 8.2% of those with long COVID reported having been infected more than once, compared to only 5.9% for those who had COVID once.

Women are more likely to report having long COVID. 17.9% of women who have tested positive reported long COVID, compared to 12.8% of men. Of those people aged 18 to 29 who tested positive, 9.2% reported long COVID. This rises to 14.3% for those aged 30 to 49, 22.1% for those aged 50 to 69, and 14.9% for those aged over 70 years old.

The effects of long COVID

Long COVID symptoms can influence daily functioning. Figure 1 (see Melbourne Institute TTPN website portal) shows that those with long COVID are more likely to report more severe symptoms, the most common include shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction or 'brain fog' and fatigue.

The symptoms of COVID are associated with higher levels of mental distress (Figure 2 – see Melbourne Institute TTPN website portal). For example, 15.8% of those with long COVID feel depressed or anxious most of the time, compared to 9.2% for those who experienced symptoms for less than one month.

Those with long COVID are 7.2 percentage points less likely to be employed compared to those who have experienced COVID symptoms for less than one month (Figure 3 – see Melbourne Institute TTPN website portal).

Almost half of the Australian adult population have now had COVID-19. Long COVID affects a large proportion of the population who can have severe symptoms not usually associated with having a cold or the flu. These symptoms are associated with high levels of mental distress and unemployment, affect women more than men, and across all age groups, especially those aged between 50 to 69.

Having a booster is the best long-term defence against the effects of COVID, yet rates of booster vaccinations remain dangerously low and immunity is waning. The Australian government needs to significantly increase booster shots using the best evidence on how to do this successfully.

Author: Professor Anthony Scott, Program Co-ordinator the ‘Health and Healthcare’ research theme at the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research, 27 October 2022.

About Taking the Pulse of the Nation:

*Beginning in April 2020, the Taking the Pulse of the Nation (TTPN) was conceptualised and implemented by a group of researchers at the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research.

In 2022, the Melbourne Institute and Roy Morgan formed a partnership to extend the running of the TTPN. Each wave includes a set of core questions, as well as additional questions that address current and emerging issues facing Australians.

The sample is stratified to reflect the Australian adult population in terms of age, gender, and location. The TTPN Survey uses a repeated cross-sectional design. This report is based on a total of 1,013 respondents from data collected in September 2022. If you are interested in adding questions to the survey or accessing the data, please contact us at: melb-inst@unimelb.edu.au.

To view all Melbourne Institute – Roy Morgan Taking The Pulse of the Nation Reports visit the TTPN website portal:  https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/data/taking-the-pulse-of-the-nation-2022.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size Percentage Estimate
40% – 60% 25% or 75% 10% or 90% 5% or 95%
1,000 ±3.0 ±2.7 ±1.9 ±1.3
5,000 ±1.4 ±1.2 ±0.8 ±0.6
7,500 ±1.1 ±1.0 ±0.7 ±0.5
10,000 ±1.0 ±0.9 ±0.6 ±0.4
20,000 ±0.7 ±0.6 ±0.4 ±0.3
50,000 ±0.4 ±0.4 ±0.3 ±0.2
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