Labor Lost: The Economic Impact of Post-Infection Disease

Each year in observance of Labor Day, we honor workers and their achievements. But the holiday is also an occasion to consider all of those who are robbed of the ability to work by ME/CFS, Long Covid and other disabling post-infection diseases.

While exact figures are not available due to the lack of official data and estimates vary, it is clear that the impact these diseases have on the participation in the labor force and on the broader economy is staggering, and continues to grow as a result of the pandemic.

The Economic Cost and Impact on the Labor Force

Prior to the COVID pandemic, it was estimated that there were 1.5 million people with ME/CFS in the United States, and an annual economic impact of $36–51 billion. The CDC estimates that 20 million adult Americans currently have Long Covid, and 16 million people are working-age Americans, such that the economic toll has become significantly heavier.

The various estimates suggest that as many as five to nine million (5-9M) people are currently out of work completely or partially because of ME/CFS and Long Covid. This would result in an annual economic burden of approximately $200 to $400 billion in lost income and medical expenses. The impact on the US economy is likely much higher when adding other costs, such as disability benefits, social services, and lost wages of caretakers.

For more analysis see: Updated ME/CFS prevalence estimates reflecting post-COVID increases and associated economic costs and funding implications,” (Mirin, Dimmock and Jason); Solve M.E.’s whitepaper  “Long Covid Impact on Adult Americans: Early Indicators Estimating Prevalence and Cost,” (Dunne, Smallwood and Taylor); and New data shows long Covid is keeping as many as 4 million people out of work (Bach, Brookings Institute) which found that as many as 4 million in the U.S. are out of work due to Long Covid.

The impact of ME/CFS and Long Covid extends far beyond those who suffer, and the desperate need for more public and private investments into research for treatments and cures has never been more clear.

What You Can Do

  1. Participate in an advocacy action calling for more funding for Long Covid, ME/CFS and other post-infection diseases.
  2. Share our “How Long?” Long Covid public service announcement, designed to raise awareness about Long Covid, educate the public about the symptoms and emphasize the urgent need for research in order to help patients
  3. Join the You + ME Registry, an online clinical study committed to identifying a cure for ME/CFS, Long Covid and other post-infection diseases
  4. Make a gift in support of these and other efforts by Solve M.E. to make Long Covid, ME/CFS and other post-infection diseases widely understood, diagnosable, and treatable.
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