Dementia sufferers three times more likely to get severe COVID-19

Older people with dementia are three times more likely to have severe COVID-19 than those who do not suffer the disease, according to a new study.

The study by academics from the University of Exeter and the University of Connecticut in the USA found this may have been as a result of greater exposure to the virus, for example in nursing homes, or it may be caused by the dementia disease process itself.

Researchers also found a higher risk of severe infection among people with pre-existing diagnoses of depression, chronic lung disease, diabetes, atrial fibrillation (causing an irregular heartbeat), or reduced kidney function increased risks by between 80% and 30%.

The team used results from 448 people aged 65 to 86 years old who tested positive for COVID-19 predominantly while in hospitals, at the peak of the epidemic in England.

The researchers found that older men were at 80 per cent higher risk than older women and found that this was not due to men having more pre-existing diseases.

The team found that black older people were more than three times more likely to be affected than white, after accounting for the 15 pre-existing conditions they studied.

‘These initial results suggest that some risky pre-existing diseases in older people may have been overlooked, especially dementia, depression, atrial fibrillation and pre-existing kidney disease,’ said Professor David Melzer, who led the study.

‘Our findings should help stimulate COVID-19 research on the special needs of older patients with these high-risk conditions. The findings may also have implications for how the current isolation of older people could be managed as the epidemic recedes. A more precision approach may be possible, given the different risks that different older people face.’

Dr Janice Atkins, research fellow and first author of the study, said: ‘Results of COVID-19 tests for UK Biobank participants are a valuable resource for researchers. Our initial analyses have shown that some specific  pre-existing conditions are disproportionally common in older adults who develop severe COVID-19, which may have implications for policy makers during future phases of the outbreak.’

 

Photo Credit – Geralt (Pixabay)

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