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Lasting effects: Experiences of COVID-19 and Long COVID symptoms among Jews in the UK

Author(s): David Graham and Jonathan Boyd
Date: 25 May 2021

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In this report, the authors investigate the likely prevalence of COVID-19 and Long Covid among Britain’s Jewish population. Based on data collected by JPR in July 2020 – five months into the pandemic – they found that infection was already widespread in the Jewish community with a quarter (25%) of respondents (aged 16 and above) reporting having experienced COVID-19 symptoms (although testing in the UK was not widely available at this stage.) This accords with other national data showing that BAME groups, including Jews, suffered particularly badly in the early stages of the pandemic.

The data also confirm findings that the strictly Orthodox community was most likely to have been infected (40%) at this stage. And while respondents who self-described as having ‘very strong’ religiosity or who characterised their outlook as ‘religious’ were also far more likely to report having experienced COVID-19 symptoms, it appears that synagogue or communal involvement (rather than membership) is associated with higher levels.

The report also shows that almost two out of three (64%) respondents first experienced symptoms in March 2020, which was the clear peak of infection up to July 2020 when the survey took place. Nevertheless, more than one in six (16%) said they first experienced symptoms in February 2020, and these cases were mainly among more secular members of the Jewish community.

Reports of ongoing health issues following a COVID-19 infection began to appear early on in the pandemic. Gradually, data emerged about Long COVID showing it to be associated with 205 symptoms affecting multiple organs. In January 2021 it was estimated that 300,000 people in the UK may have been suffering from Long COVID. Our data showed that at least 15% of respondents, who said they had experienced COVID-19 symptoms, reported Long COVID symptoms in July 2020, similar to the levels found in the UK generally.

Respondents who had pre-existing health conditions, were far more likely to report Long COVID than those without such conditions. The most commonly reported health concerns were shortness of breath, affecting half of sufferers (51%), followed by ‘severe fatigue’ affecting 43%. Long COVID sufferers were also more likely to report lower levels of happiness and higher levels of anxiety.

Long COVID may ultimately be one of the main long-term health legacies of the coronavirus pandemic. While many gaps in our understanding of this complex health issue remain at the time of publication, JPR will continue to investigate this and other key health issues confronting the Jewish community during the pandemic.