COVID-19 Risk Factors – Age
There are certain factors that put particular groups of people at higher risk of experiencing severe disease if infected by SARS CoV-2. Click here for an overview.
This article explores age in more detail:
The effect of age
Individuals of any age can contract SARS CoV-2, with or without becoming symptomatic. To date, COVID-19 has affected significantly more individuals in the 65 and over age bracket, and less of the younger population. Studies have shown that advanced age puts individuals at a higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms once infected with SARS CoV-2; meaning that this age group is more likely to require hospitalisation. In the US, eight out of ten deaths from COVID-19 have been in those aged 65 and over.
The main reasons why older adults seem to suffer more from COVID-19 are:
- Underlying health conditions. Age correlates with the acquisition of non-communicable disorders such as hypertension, chronic renal disease, and diabetes. In the context of COVID-19, over 70% of those who have been hospitalised with the infection over the age of 65 have at least one underlying health condition.
- Slower regeneration. In general, the ability of our bodies to regenerate slows down with age, and this applies to all organs, including the skin, gastrointestinal tract, liver, and immune system. The immune system loses resiliency and becomes more susceptible to infections. As a result, the older you are, the less likely your body is able to effectively or rapidly clear infections.
The older generation are also more susceptible to other respiratory viruses, including the seasonal flu.
Consuming a balanced diet and partaking in regular exercise will contribute to good overall health. Good health and a stronger immune system will both enhance your body’s ability to fight infections. This is particularly important for those in the older population group. However, despite the clear correlation between age and disease severity, there are cases of young adults and children experiencing critical symptoms following infection with SARS CoV-2. The reasons for this remain unknown, but the underlying message is clear: caution, protection, and healthy lifestyle choices should be adopted by all.
- Adler, Sarah Elizabeth. “Coronavirus Most Serious for People Age 65+.” AARP, www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/coronavirus-severe-seniors.html.
- “People Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 May 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/groups-at-higher-risk.html.
- Richardson, Safiya, et al. “Presenting Characteristics, Comorbidities, and Outcomes Among 5700 Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19 in the New York City Area.” Jama, vol. 323, no. 20, 22 Apr. 2020, pp. 2052–2059., doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6775.