Close Menu

Does Long COVID Impact Men and Women Differently?

Impact of gender on Long COVID

From the desk of Deborah J. Hendricks, Ed.D., Executive Director

Before we address the question at hand, it might be helpful to look first at exactly what we mean by "long COVID." Also known as "long-haul COVID" or "post COVID," it is generally defined as any of a set of identified health problems occurring four or more weeks after a person has been infected with COVID-19. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following represent the most common problems associated with long COVID:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Difficulties thinking or other cognitive problems, also commonly called "brain fog"
  • Heart rhythm problems ranging from a slower-than-normal heartbeat (bradycardia) to a more rapidly beating heart (tachycardia) or heart palpitations
  • Problems sleeping
  • Cough
  • Chest pains

This is not the complete list of possible long COVID symptoms and anyone experiencing any new, ongoing, or recurring health problems are strongly encouraged to contact their health care provider. It's also important to note that while long COVID is most often seen in people who had a severe case of COVID-19, it can occur in those who had the virus but who experienced mild symptoms or even no symptoms at all. Also, COVID-19 can impact nearly any organ in the body — brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and more — with long-lasting effects. While some people may have only one symptom of long COVID, many people experience multiple symptoms.

Women, COVID-19, and Employment.

Women have been heavily impacted by COVID-19 in the workplace. Women have experienced greater employment disruption because of the pandemic than from the Great Recession. For example, the majority of healthcare providers, both paid and non-paid, are women. This places them at greater risk for coming in contact with and contracting COVID-19. Further, women make up the majority of home health aides, childcare workers, fast food workers, food retail workers, restaurant servers, cleaners, and cashiers — all areas that have lost large numbers of jobs during the pandemic.

But does long COVID impact men and women differently?

Multiple research studies have suggested that the answer may be yes. One recent large-scale study reported in The Lancet: Respiratory Medicine found that women were 22% less likely to report being fully recovered from COVID-19 a full year after hospitalization. In a second recent study published in the Journal of Women's Health, women were statistically more likely than men to report having shortness of breath, fatigue, chest pain, palpitations, and disturbances in sleep five months after having had COVID-19. Some studies also have reported that women experience depression associated with long COVID more often than men, although other research is exploring whether other environmental factors may be involved.