“Living like an empty gas tank with a leak”: Mixed methods study on post-acute sequelae of COVID-19
Background The burden and presentation of post-acute sequela of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC) are a developing major public health concern. Objectives To characterize the burden of PASC in community-dwelling individuals and understand the experiences of people living with PASC. Methods This mixed-methods study of COVID-19 positive community-dwelling persons involved surveys and in-depth interviews. Main outcome was self-report of possible PASC symptoms 3 weeks or longer after positive COVID-19 test. In-depth interviews were guided by a semi-structured interview guide with open-ended questions and probes based on emerging literature on PASC and the impact of COVID-19. Results With a survey response rate of 70%, 442 participants were included in this analysis, mean (SD) age 45.4 (16.2) years, 71% female, 12% Black/African American. Compared to those with no PASC symptoms, persons who reported PASC symptoms were more likely to be older (mean age: 46.5 vs. 42; p = 0.013), female (74.3% vs. 61.2%; p = 0.010), to have preexisting conditions (49.6% vs. 34%; p = 0.005), and to have been hospitalized for COVID-19 (14.2% vs. 2.9%; p = 0.002). About 30% of the participants experienced severe fatigue; the proportion of persons reporting severe fatigue was 7-fold greater in those with PASC symptoms (Adjusted Prevalence Ratio [aPR] 6.73, 95%CI: 2.80–16.18). Persons with PASC symptoms were more likely to report poor quality of life (16% vs. 5%, p<0.001) and worse mental health functioning (Mean difference: -1.87 95%CI: -2.38, -1.37, p<0.001). Themes from in-depth interviews revealed PASC was experienced as debilitating. Conclusions In this study, the prevalence of PASC among community-dwelling adults was substantial. Participants reported considerable coping difficulties, restrictions in everyday activities, invisibility of symptoms and experiences, and impediments to getting and receiving PASC care.
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National Institutes of Health