A new study to better understand the long-term health effects of COVID-19 launched today, Wednesday 12 May. Public Health Scotland (PHS) is a key partner in the COVID in Scotland Study (CISS) (external website), which is led by the University of Glasgow.

All adults in Scotland who have had a positive COVID-19 test result, as well as a sample of people who tested negative for the disease, are invited to take part in the study over a period of 24 months. Individuals will be asked to use the specially designed app to answer questions about their health, both before and after COVID-19, and whether the virus has had any lasting effects on their lives.

Researchers hope the study will identify how many people continue to be unwell after having COVID-19 in Scotland, their symptoms and how it affects their lives.

The results will provide insight into the scale and nature of long COVID-19; how many people have long-term effects, the type of long-term effects; and the impacts of them on daily living. It will enable predictions to be made on who needs ongoing health and social care and the type of support needed.

Dr Andrew McAuley, Consultant Scientist at PHS, said:

“Studies looking into the long-term effects of COVID-19 do already exist, but the majority are focused on patients who have been hospitalised, therefore only capturing a small number of the overall infections in the country. Crucially, this study will look at all COVID-19 positive cases irrespective of their initial symptoms, or whether they required any medical care during their illness.

“I urge all those who are invited to take part in this study to do so – answering some simple questions about your experience of COVID-19 can help shape Scotland’s response to long COVID-19”.

Professor Jill Pell, Professor of Public Health at the University of Glasgow said:

“Most people recover quickly and completely after infection with COVID-19, but some people have reported a wide variety of long-term problems. It is crucial that we find out how many people have long-term problems, and what those problems are, so that we can set up systems to spot problems early and deal with them effectively.

“Evidence gathered from patients since the beginning of the pandemic suggests that, for some people, symptoms of COVID-19 persist beyond the expected period of infection. Termed “Long COVID-19”, these symptoms are currently defined as “not recovering for several weeks or months following the start of symptoms that were suggestive of COVID-19, whether you were tested or not”.

Those who agree to participate in the study will be asked questions via the app, and then again 12, 18 and 24 months after their initial positive test result. Some participants will also be asked to take part in one-to-one interviews to discuss, in more detail, the impact of COVID-19 on their health and normal activities of living. The study will also recruit a comparison group who tested negative for COVID-19, at a ratio of three comparison group participants for every participant who tested positive for the virus.

Last updated: 06 October 2022