A cross-sectional study of the health of emerging young adults in England following a COVID-19 infection

Fiona Newlands, Natalia K Rojas, Manjula D. Nugawela, Snehal M. Pinto Pereira, Marta Buszewicz, Trudie Chalder, Emily Cheung, Emma Dalrymple, Tamsin Ford, Isobel Heyman, Shamez N. Ladhani, Kelsey McOwat, Ruth Simmons, Terence Stephenson, Roz Shafran

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This study describes long COVID symptomatology in a national sample of 18–20-year-olds with PCR-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 and matched test-negative controls in England. Symptoms in 18-20-year-olds were compared to younger adolescents (aged 11-17 years) and all adults (18+).

A national database was used to identify SARS-CoV-2 PCR-positive 18–20-year-olds and test-negative controls matched by time of test, age, gender and geographical region. Participants were invited to complete a questionnaire about their health retrospectively at time of test and also when completing the questionnaire. Comparison cohorts included Children and Young People with Long COVID and Real-time Assessment of Community Transmission studies.

Of 14,986 people invited, 1,001 were included in the analysis (562 test-positive; 440 test-negative). At testing, 46.5% of test-positives and 16.4% of test-negatives reported at least one symptom. At the time of questionnaire completion (median 7 months post-testing), 61.5% of test-positives and 47.5% of test-negatives reported one or more symptoms. The most common symptoms were similar amongst test-positives and test-negatives and included tiredness (44.0%; 35.7%), shortness of breath (28.8%; 16.3%) and headaches (13.7%; 12.0%). Prevalence rates were similar to those reported by 11-17-year-olds (66.5%) and higher than those reported in all adults (37.7%).
For 18-20-year-olds, there was no significant difference in health-related quality of life and wellbeing (p>0.05). However, test-positives reported being significantly more tired than test-negatives (p=0.04).

Seven months after PCR test, a high proportion of test-positive and test-negative 18-20-year-olds reported similar symptoms to each other and to those experienced by younger and older counterparts.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 25 Jan 2023


  • long Covid
  • symptoms
  • emerging adults


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