Black and Hispanic patients were more likely than white patients to develop a wide array of lasting symptoms and conditions after a COVID-19 diagnosis.
The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative, analyzed data from 29,331 white patients, 12,638 Black patients and 20,370 Hispanic patients who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in New York City between March 2020 and October 2021. The researchers found that Black and Hispanic patients were more likely to experience ongoing symptoms, even after recovering from the acute phase of the illness.
It identified several symptoms that were more common among these populations, including Black patients having a higher likelihood of developing blood clots in the lungs or of being diagnosed with diabetes after COVID-19. Hispanic patients had higher risk of headaches and chest pain than white patients. However, White patients had increased odds of damage to the brain or abnormal brain function.
Although it is unclear why there are differing aftereffects of COVID in ethnic or racial groups, Dr. Dhruv Khullar, lead author and assistant professor of Population Health Sciences and the Nanette Laitman Clinical Scholar in Healthcare Policy Research/Quality of Care Research at Weill Cornell Medicine and a hospitalist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said in a statement, “Identifying potential racial and ethnic disparities in long COVID is an important step toward making sure we have an equitable response to the long-term consequences of coronavirus infection.”
Khullar added, “We hope our study encourages clinicians, researchers and policymakers to pay attention to potential differences in long COVID across racial and ethnic groups and to stimulate more research and discussion.”
The findings of this study are particularly concerning given the already existing racial health disparities in the United States. Black and Hispanic individuals are more likely to experience chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, which can increase the risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
These populations are also more likely to experience barriers to accessing healthcare, including lack of insurance, language barriers, and difficulty accessing care due to geographical location.