The risk of death to patients with the coronavirus drastically increases with age, according to a new study.
The study puts hard numbers to trends that have played out globally as governments and individuals attempt to protect the most vulnerable populations. The study found that the elderly, those with certain comorbidities, men, and people of black and South Asian ethnicities are at higher risk from the virus.
The science journal Nature published the study on Wednesday, in which the authors analyzed troves of data from primary care records covering roughly 40% of Britain’s population. The researchers compiled a data base of 17,278,392 primary care records, including 10,926 patients that suffered COVID-19-related deaths.
“A lot of previous work has focused on patients that present at hospital,” Oxford researcher Dr. Ben Goldacre, one of the study’s authors, told The New York Times. “That’s useful and important, but we wanted to get a clear sense of the risks as an everyday person. Our starting pool is literally everybody.”
The study revealed a “jaw-dropping” connection between one’s chances of dying from the disease and their age, Goldacre said. People over age 80 are at least 20 times more likely to die from the disease than someone aged 50-59. The risk of dying from the coronavirus for adults under the age of 40 is close to zero.
“The overall cumulative incidence of death 90 days after study start was <0.01% in those aged 18-39 years, rising to 0.67% and 0.44% in men and women respectively aged ≥80 years,” the study states. “Increasing age was strongly associated with risk, with those ≥80 years having more than 20-fold increased risk than 50-59 year olds.”
The study also highlighted that non-white ethnicities were more vulnerable than white ethnicities. Comorbidities such as obesity, asthma, and heart disease and others also contribute to increased risk. Also, men are about 60% more likely than women to die from the disease.
“This highlights a lot of what we already know about Covid-19,” University of Illinois at Chicago health professor Uchechi Mitchell, who was not an author of the study, told NYT. “But a lot of science is about repetition. The size of the study alone is a strength, and there is a need to continue documenting disparities.”
Many governors in the United States have paused or reversed their reopening plans as coronavirus case numbers begin to climb, especially in states in the southern and western parts of the U.S. Fatalities from the disease have continued to decline, however. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the average number of deaths from COVID-19 has declined for 10 consecutive weeks.
Health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have warned that death numbers should begin to spike in the coming days and weeks as the fatality rate catches up with the infection rate.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and others maintain that the increasing case numbers are almost entirely due to young people contracting the disease, however. As long as vulnerable populations remain uninfected, states should aim to lessen restrictions, not reapply them.