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Risk of long COVID and associated symptoms after acute SARS-COV-2 infection in ethnic minorities: A nationwide register-linked cohort study in Denmark.

PLoS Medicine 2024 Februrary 21
BACKGROUND: Ethnic minorities living in high-income countries have been disproportionately affected by Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in terms of infection rates, hospitalisations, and deaths; however, less is known about long COVID in these populations. Our aim was to examine the risk of long COVID and associated symptoms among ethnic minorities.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: We used nationwide register-based cohort data on individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 aged ≥18 years (n = 2,286,955) between January 2020 and August 2022 in Denmark. We calculated the risk of long COVID diagnosis and long COVID symptoms among ethnic minorities compared with native Danes using multivariable Cox proportional hazard regression and logistic regression, respectively. Among individuals who were first time diagnosed with COVID-19 during the study period, 39,876 (1.7%) were hospitalised and 2,247,079 (98.3%) were nonhospitalised individuals. Of the diagnosed COVID-19 cases, 1,952,021 (85.3%) were native Danes and 334,934 (14.7%) were ethnic minorities. After adjustment for age, sex, civil status, education, family income, and Charlson comorbidity index, ethnic minorities from North Africa (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 1.41, 95% confidence interval [CI] [1.12,1.79], p = 0.003), Middle East (aHR 1.38, 95% CI [1.24,1.55], p < 0.001), Eastern Europe (aHR 1.35, 95% CI [1.22,1.49], p < 0.001), and Asia (aHR 1.23, 95% CI [1.09,1.40], p = 0.001) had significantly greater risk of long COVID diagnosis than native Danes. In the analysis by largest countries of origin, the greater risks of long COVID diagnosis were found in people of Iraqi origin (aHR 1.56, 95% CI [1.30,1.88], p < 0.001), people of Turkish origin (aHR 1.42, 95% CI [1.24,1.63], p < 0.001), and people of Somali origin (aHR 1.42, 95% CI [1.07,1.91], p = 0.016). A significant factor associated with an increased risk of long COVID diagnosis was COVID-19 hospitalisation. The risk of long COVID diagnosis among ethnic minorities was more pronounced between January 2020 and June 2021. Furthermore, the odds of reporting cardiopulmonary symptoms (including dyspnoea, cough, and chest pain) and any long COVID symptoms were higher among people of North African, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, and Asian origins than among native Danes in both unadjusted and adjusted models. Despite including the nationwide sample of individuals diagnosed with COVID-19, the precision of our estimates on long COVID was limited to the sample of patients with symptoms who had contacted the hospital.

CONCLUSIONS: Belonging to an ethnic minority group was significantly associated with an increased risk of long COVID, indicating the need to better understand long COVID drivers and address care and treatment strategies in these populations.

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