Is “Long COVID” Mostly a Mental Disease?
Self-reported 'long covid' doesn't actually correlate with having had covid
The Journal of the American Medical Association has another stunning paper out, this one on post-Covid symptoms in almost 27,000 French adults.
Researchers asked people to report whether they had had Covid and whether they had any of 18 lasting symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, or cough. They found that self-reported Covid was very strongly associated with nearly every symptom.
But the scientists then went a step further.
They also had Sars-Cov-2 antibody test results for the people they had surveyed, so they didn’t have to depend on self-reported Covid. They knew who really had had Covid and who had not.
They then compared self-reported symptoms in people with antibodies – that is, people who had actually been infected and recovered from Covid – to the general population. And they found no difference in almost any symptom.
Covid was not a risk factor for chest pain, or breathing difficulties, or trouble focusing, or stomach pain, or any of the many, many other complaints that long Covid “patients” and interest groups say are real. There was one interesting exception; people with Covid antibodies did have a much higher rate of anosmia, losing one’s sense of smell. Because anosmia is a known and lasting side effect, it serves as a useful control of sorts.
The researchers also found that almost 60 percent of the people with antibodies HAD NO IDEA THEY HAD EVEN HAD COVID AT ALL. Meanwhile, while more than half the people who said they had had Covid had no antibodies. (Welcome to the plague so severe most halfway healthy adults don’t even know they’ve had it.)
The study strongly suggests that many people are using previous Covid diagnoses – either real or imagined – to help explain away common physical symptoms such as joint pain or cough. It also suggests that actually being infected Covid is far less risky than thinking you have been infected with Covid for many people.
The researchers concluded by explaining that people who claim they have long Covid may need help “to identify cognitive and behavioral mechanisms that may be targeted to relieve the symptoms.” Which is a very polite way of putting the truth.
This study should slow, if not stop, the rush to medicalize long Covid. It is yet more proof that the illness is a group of squishy (if painful and difficult) symptoms looking for a name – and more importantly a billing code.
But so many patients and physicians and public health experts are now invested (in some cases literally) in making long Covid real that the gravy train will likely roll on.
Source: Unreported Truths