The Top 2 Reasons COVID-19 Impacts the Over-65yo Population
From the early days of the COVID-19 crisis in China, data pointed to one trend: older adults were more vulnerable to this new disease than younger age groups. This has now been confirmed by data from all over the world.
As at the beginning of April 2020, Spain reports that 65 and over represented around 95% of its COVID-19-related deaths and 65% of patients requiring ICU. Within the 65 and over group, the older, the more impacted the patient, with a mortality rate of just 3.2% for the 65-70yo which jumps to a whooping 25.9% for 90 and over. Similar trends if less dramatic were observed in China.
As such, age appears as a major variable during this crisis: the older, the more at risk of severe COVID-19 complications.
Why is this? There are 2 potential reasons that could explain this
Older people possess a less effective immune system
A decline in immune function is one of the most recognized consequences of aging. In older adults, white blood cells are lesser in number, and less adept at identifying novel pathogens like coronavirus. As a result, the disease has the potential to develop more than if faced with a more proficient immune system. Additionally, older patient’s immune systems could be more prone to cytokine storms, which are overreactions of the immune machinery causing severe inflammation and potentially further damaging lung tissue. Whilst no study is available yet, accumulating evidence points to cytokine storms in older patients to be one of the causes of death in COVID-19 patients other than respiratory failure.
The more frequent existence of other conditions, called co-morbidities
65 year and over tend to have more existing chronic medical conditions than the rest of the population and a report about the outbreak in China by the World Health Organization found that individuals with comorbidities were at a highest risk for severe COVID-19-related disease and death. The fatality rate in people who reported no chronic disease was 1.4%, but jumped to:
- 13.2% for cardiovascular diseases
- 9.2% for diabetes
- 8.4% for hypertension
- 8.0% for chronic respiratory disease
- 7.6% for cancer
Similarly in Spain, a study of 16’000 COVID-19 cases as at end of March among which were 566 deaths found that 74% of cases requiring ICU or resulting in death had some form of comorbidity. Most notably, 60% presented with cardiovascular diseases.
What to do if you are over 65 or have existing chronic conditions?
More than anybody, make sure to follow as much as possible the most drastic social distancing measures, and stay at home as much as possible. If you absolutely need to venture outside (and this has to be an exceptional occurrence), make sure to wear any form of available face mask. If you do not have a face mask at hand you can make your own DIY mask.
If you worry about potential symptoms, and have existing chronic conditions, do not go to your doctor or to hospital unless in an emergency. Instead, it is essential that you consider switching to telehealth, which will limit the risks of you becoming infected. Pharmacies will now be able to deliver medication to your doorstep, allowing you to remain sheltered whilst receiving an adequate level of medical care and advice.
Concierge Doctors acknowledges the psychological and physiological impact the current situation might be having on those 65 and over and those with existing chronic conditions. This is why we have made sure you can get in touch with us within minutes. Get in touch now with our Australian doctors and psychologist, via our online telehealth platform.