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August 16, 2020

Age Related Risk of Covid-19 (corona virus) infection

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*The data listed here might change from time to time and is sourced from different places.

Probably the biggest influencing factor in terms of disease outcomes is how old you are. The older you are, the worse your chances of surviving it.

In other words, if you are aged, for example, between 65-74, you have 198.7 chances in 100,000 of being hospitalized, for the virus, during the period up to 6 June 2020. Let’s make that easier to grasp – 198.7 in 100,000 is the same as 0.2% – one chance in 500. That’s not quite so scary a number, is it.

This is not a meaningful number, unfortunately, because we don’t know what percentage these numbers are of all people getting the disease in each age group. Any hospitalization first requires you to get the disease and then to become sufficiently seriously unwell and require being admitted to a hospital. To tell us the overall number of people being hospitalized is a great example of a statistic that may be perfectly correct, but which is also unhelpful to the point of being meaningless!

This chart below gives a very vivid depiction of the bottom-line impact of age on death rates.

Compared to people aged 18 – 29, if you are 65 – 74, you’ve a five times greater rate of being hospitalized and a 90 times higher risk of dying. And if you’re over 85, the number is astonishingly greater again. It can also be derived from this chart that the risk of dying, after being hospitalized, goes up with age as well. You see that 30 – 39 year-olds have twice the chance of being hospitalized, but four times the risk of dying, while 50 – 64 year-olds have four times the chance of being hospitalized, but not four times the risk of dying, but a massive 30 times more.
These numbers are helpful, but there’s still a vital pair of data points missing. What is the risk of hospitalization or dying for the benchmark 18 – 29 yr old? We can’t conveniently determine that from this chart. So yet again, while we know the risk is much higher or lower depending on your age, it is difficult to put an exact number on it, and of course, that’s what most of us instinctively would wish to have.

We need to point out something that is little appreciated. While it is true that very few children seem to contract severe or fatal cases of Covid, that does not mean they are not at risk. There are a couple of important considerations.

First, an infected child can still pass their infection on to other people. Second, there is increasing awareness of recovered children now showing signs of various lasting harm and damage to their arteries and veins. Another source studied the chance of patients dying in a number of countries. The word “patient” isn’t defined, but we assume it mean “someone who has been admitted to hospital” rather than referring to everyone known to have been infected.

There are surprising differences in death rates in different countries (huge differences – in some countries you have a ten times greater chance of dying than in other countries) so we hesitate to consider the numbers in the study as anything other than indicative and confirming the general concept that older people are much more at risk.

As you can see, there is a similar massive increase in mortality with age. The actual values are unfortunately quite different from the previous set of data (why?), but the concept of major increases in risk/mortality with advancing age is consistent. There’s one more thing to keep in mind. We don’t know for sure (not yet, anyway!), but we’ll guess that when you’re over 80, your chances of dying if hospitalized for any illness are very much greater than if you’re half that age. So are the higher numbers we’re seeing here “just because that is how it goes for everyone and every disease” or are they truly/significantly higher because the coronavirus is more dangerous?  That’s something that would be helpful to know, but not something any of the studies we’ve seen have chosen to consider.

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