Israeli study finds longterm COVID affects ethnic groups differently

The findings carry implications beyond Israel and shed new insight on global efforts to address the pandemic’s continuing consequences.

By Pesach Benson, TPS

Israeli researchers have uncovered a significant discrepancy in the effect of long-term COVID on the country’s different ethnic groups.

The study, conducted by a team of researchers from Bar-Ilan University, highlighted an 11% disparity between Arabs and Druze on one hand, and Jews, suggesting that certain populations may be more susceptible to long-term symptoms and a diminished quality of life. The findings were recently published in the peer-reviewed International Journal of Public Health.

Many people who were infected and then cured of the coronavirus have reported ongoing health problems such as persistent fatigue, heart palpitations, chest pains, brain fog, changes in smell and taste, joint and muscle pains – and for women, changes in their menstrual cycle, among other symptoms. More severe cases can impact the heart, lungs, kidneys, skin or brain.

More than half of Israelis who caught COVID reported feeling at least one symptom of long-term COVID one year after their sickness, according to an Israeli Health Ministry survey released in April 2023.

“By comprehending how the virus affects different communities, we can strive to develop targeted interventions and support systems that alleviate the long-term impact on quality of life,” said Prof. Michael Edelstein, the study’s lead author.

Well-being was assessed using the EQ-5D quality of life instrument measuring five dimensions: mobility, self-care, usual activities, pain/discomfort, and anxiety/depression.

The researchers followed up with individuals who had previously contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus as part of a comprehensive cohort study.

The disparity persisted, even after taking into account socio-economic differences.

“We embarked on this study to investigate the long-term effects of COVID-19 on minority groups in Israel given existing health inequalities in the country,” Edelstein said. “While pre-COVID quality of life among Jews, Arabs, and Druze in our study was initially comparable, at the 12-month mark after infection the Arab and Druze participants reported a quality of life 11% lower than their Jewish counterparts.”

Moving forward, the research team intends to further investigate the role of vaccines in mitigating the long-term effects of COVID-19. Additionally, they plan to explore the pandemic’s economic consequences on employment and income among the study participants.