Long COVID is disabling millions of Americans. These are the top health stories you need to know about

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Shyam Bishen, Head, Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare, Member of Executive Committee, World Economic Forum

  • This weekly round-up brings you key health stories from the past fortnight.
  • Top stories: Psychiatrists in Brussels prescribe cultural experiences to combat mental health problems; Long-COVID is disabling millions of Americans; Loneliness can age us faster than smoking.

1. News in brief: Top health stories to read

Psychiatrists in the Belgian capital Brussels are to start offering museum visits on prescription, to try and help people with depression, stress or anxiety. The six-month pilot scheme gives people a free visit to one of five museums run by the city authorities.

Large Chinese cities including Shenzhen and Shanghai have ramped up testing for COVID-19 as infections rise. Some local authorities have swiftly closed schools, entertainment venues and tourist spots.

Switzerland’s drugs regulator has temporarily approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster targeting the original and BA.1 Omicron COVID-19 variants.

Lebanon has recorded its first case of cholera since 1993. It is likely the result of a serious outbreak in neighbouring Syria, caretaker Health Minister Firass Abiad says.

This follows the news that a cholera outbreak in Malawi has killed more than 100 people since March.

A new study looking at the impact of concussion on a group of former Scottish international rugby players has found that they were 15 times more likely to develop motor neurone disease than the general population.

The 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to a Swedish geneticist for discoveries that underpin our understanding of how modern-day people evolved from extinct ancestors.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ended its COVID-19 country travel health notices, as fewer countries are reporting enough data for accurate assessments.

2. Long COVID is disabling millions of Americans, new report reveals

More than 80% of the nearly 24 million adults in the US who have long COVID are having some trouble carrying out daily activities, according to new data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .

Between 14 September and 26 September, more than one in four adults with long COVID reported significant limitations on day-to-day activities. It is closer to 40% for respondents who are Black, Latino or disabled.

Long COVID symptoms can include shortness of breath, cognitive difficulties and symptoms that worsen even with minimal physical or mental effort – a primary indicator of chronic fatigue syndrome, according to the CDC.

Up to 4 million people in the US are estimated to be out of work because of long COVID symptoms, according to a Brookings Institute report in August. Although long COVID is recognized as a disability in the US, there is no test for the illness. Social security benefits require proof that a person has had the condition for at least a year.


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3. Loneliness can age us faster than smoking, new study finds

Feeling unhappy or being lonely can add up to 1.65 years to a person’s biological age, according to a new study from researchers at Hong Kong start-up Deep Longevity, Stanford University and The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

This aggregate effect exceeds the effects of biological sex, living area, marital status and smoking status, according to the report.

The researchers gathered data by using an “ageing clock” based on information collected from 4,846 adults in 2015 as part of the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study.

A total of 16 blood biomarkers were measured, including cholesterol and glucose levels, participants’ sex and information such as their blood pressure, body mass index and measures of lung function.

Following the findings, the authors say that promoting mental health should be considered a potential anti-ageing intervention, with possible benefits on par with more tangible, physical therapeutic approaches.

“Taking care of your psychological health is the greatest contributor to slowing down your pace of ageing,” said Fedor Galkin, a co-author of the study and Lead Scientist at Deep Longevity.

More from Agenda on global health

Health inequity still prevents many people from accessing the care they need. To reach equity by 2050, public, private and philanthropic institutions need to act together now.

Technology can help with improving care – in areas from diagnostics to democratizing access.

What impact has the war in Ukraine had on the mental health of the people living there? Hans Kluge, Regional Director for Europe at the World Health Organization (WHO), and Jarno Habicht, the WHO’s Representative in Ukraine, investigate.

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