Age, men, obesity, and underlying illness risk factors for severe COVID-19

London: Researchers have found that age, male sex, obesity, and underlying illness have emerged as risk factors for severe COVID-19 or death in the UK.

According to a study, published in the journal The BMJ, the risk of death increases in the over 50s, as does being male, obese, or having underlying heart, lung, liver and kidney disease.It provides a comprehensive picture of the characteristics of patients hospitalised in the UK with COVID-19 and their outcomes.

Studies in China have reported risk factors associated with severe COVID-19, but studies describing the features and outcomes of patients with severe COVID-19 who have been admitted to hospital in Europe are lacking. To address this knowledge gap, a team of UK researchers analysed data from 20,133 patients with COVID-19 admitted to 208 acute care hospitals in England, Wales, and Scotland between February 6 and April 18.

This represents around a third of all patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in the UK. The average age of patients in the study was 73 years, and more men (12,068) were admitted to the hospital than women (8,065).Besides increasing age, and underlying heart, lung, liver and kidney disease – factors already known to cause poor outcomes – the researchers found that obesity and gender were key factors associated with the need for higher levels of care and a higher risk of death in hospital.

At the time of publication, just over a quarter (26 per cent) of all COVID-19 patients in hospital had died, 54 per cent were discharged alive, and a third (34 per cent) remained in hospital. Outcomes were poorer for those requiring mechanical ventilation: 37 per cent had died, 17 per cent had been discharged alive, and 46 per cent remained in hospital.

The pattern of disease we describe broadly reflects the pattern reported globally, the researchers said. However, obesity is a major additional risk factor that was not highlighted in data from China.They suspect that reduced lung function or inflammation associated with obesity may play a role.

“Our study identifies sectors of the population that are at greatest risk of a poor outcome, and shows the importance of forward planning and investment in preparedness studies,” the study authors wrote.These results have already been shared with the UK Government and World Health Organisation, and are being compared with data from other countries around the world. So far, several studies revealed that men are more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

Recently, the findings, published in the European Heart Journal, revealed that men have higher concentrations of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in their blood than women, a molecule that enables the novel coronavirus to infect healthy cells in men.

Last month, the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health, found that men are more than twice as likely to die from the disease as compared to women.Another study from the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine showed that males over 50 with non-communicable chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and coronary heart disease are at greater risk of death from coronavirus.

As of Saturday morning, the overall number of global coronavirus cases has increased to over 5.2 million, while the death toll surged past 338,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

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