Discovery Health notes a spike in ‘lifestyle conditions’ claims from Covid-19 survivors

Survivors of Covid-19 have been encouraged to screen for diseases. Picture: Pixabay

Survivors of Covid-19 have been encouraged to screen for diseases. Picture: Pixabay

Published Jan 27, 2023


Cape Town – Discovery Health has reported a spike in lifestyle conditions in those who survived Covid-19.

Discovery Health, which administers the Discovery Medical Scheme (DHMS), and a few others have been looking into the health-care claims of people who previously contracted Covid-19 and have tracked their journeys for a year since testing positive.

According to News24, during the launch of DHMS’ new WELLTH Fund aimed at encouraging people to screen for serious diseases, Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach said that while analysing the data, after complete recovery, the Covid-19 virus unmasks underlying lifestyle diseases in some people.

He said while Discovery Health could not say for sure it was Covid-19 causing these lifestyle diseases in some survivors, it was precipitating it.

“We do live with this new disease, which we don't understand that much, called Long Covid. It will be years before evidence-based medicine emerges and we fully understand the long-term impact of Covid-19,” Noach said.

The company surveyed over 7 000 members who fully recovered from Covid-19 and responses showed a high proportion of members struggling to complete simple daily tasks.

According to News24, of the 8 000 people surveyed, 6.5% stated communication had become harder, and a third of respondents said they had difficulty concentrating immediately after recovery.

More commonly, 31% complained of headaches, 14% of breathlessness, and 14% of insomnia.

"While these are subjective feedbacks, we are seeing some measurable objective feedback in the health-care system, too," Noach told the publication.

He said data on diabetes and cardiovascular diseases shows that people who were previously healthy and caught Covid-19 have a 2.7 times higher likelihood of being diagnosed with diabetes within 12 months of recovering from the virus.

The likelihood increases by five times for those who landed in hospital because of Covid-19.

The data further found the risk of cardiac problems was 1.5 times higher among Covid-19 survivors and 3.5 times higher in those who had been hospitalised.

"These are people that caught Covid-19, and some of them had no health risks before," Noach said.

He said Discovery Health has seen high health claims within 12 months after a Covid-19 infection.

However, it is too early to measure the effect of Covid-19 on diseases such as cancer that can develop over a long time.

The good news is that the data shows that there has not been an increase in the mortality rate 12 months after recovering from the virus.

Speaking to News24, Dr Sze Wai Chan from Sandton Oncology said the overlap of some Long Covid symptoms raises the risk of late diagnosis of other severe conditions.

She has advised people who have symptoms they never experienced before Covid-19 to get checked.

Chan stated she has seen a rise in late cancer diagnosis lately but would not attribute that to Covid-19.

“Whether we can blame the virus for cancer, we don't know. Covid-19 and the lockdown period was also a very stressful time.

“Stress also contributes to the increased risk of cancer. But in terms of studies on whether Covid-19 leads to a cancer diagnosis, we don't have those studies yet,” Chan concluded.

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