(HealthDay News) — Survivors of COVID-19 hospitalization have improvement in physical and mental health over two years, but the burden of symptomatic sequelae remains high, according to a study published online May 11 in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Lixue Huang, M.D., from China-Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, and colleagues conducted an ambidirectional, longitudinal cohort study of individuals who survived COVID-19 hospitalization and were discharged between Jan. 7 and May 29, 2020. Health outcomes were measured at six months, 12 months, and two years after symptom onset. Data from 1,192 COVID-19 survivors were included in the final analysis.

The researchers observed a significant decrease in the proportion of COVID-19 survivors with at least one sequelae symptom from 68 percent at six months to 55 percent at two years; the most frequent sequelae were fatigue or muscle weakness. The proportion of COVID-19 survivors with a modified British Medical Research Council dyspnea scale score of at least 1 decreased significantly from 26 percent at six months to 14 percent at two years. In almost all domains, health-related quality of life continued to improve, especially in terms of anxiety or depression, which decreased from 23 percent at six months to 12 percent at two years. Compared with controls, COVID-19 survivors still had more prevalent symptoms and more problems in pain and discomfort as well as anxiety or depression at two years.

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“The COVID-19 survivors had not returned to the same health status as the general population two years after acute infection, so ongoing follow-up is needed to characterize the protracted natural history of long COVID,” the authors write.

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