Background: Emerging Long COVID research indicates the condition has major population health consequence. Other chronic conditions have previously been associated with functional and mental health challenges – including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide ideation, substance use and lower life satisfaction.
Methods: This study explores correlations between self-reported Long COVID, functional and mental health challenges among a random community-based sample of people (n = 655) aged 20-50 years who contracted COVID-19 prior to vaccination in a Texas county. A random sample of eligible participants was mailed a link to participate in a semi-structured questionnaire. Participant responses, including open-ended responses regarding their experience following COVID-19, were paired with health system data.
Results: Long COVID was associated with increased presence of depression (13% increase), anxiety (28% increase), suicide ideation (10% increase), PTSD (20% increase), and decreased life satisfaction and daily functioning. Structural equation modeling, controlling for sociodemographic variables and imposing a theoretical framework from existing chronic disease research, demonstrated correlations between Long COVID and higher PTSD, suicide ideation and lower life satisfaction were mediated by higher daily functional challenges and common mental disorders.
Conclusions: Basic and applied, interdisciplinary research is urgently needed to characterize the population-based response to the new challenge of Long COVID.