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Being Frail Greatly Raises COVID-19 Death Risk: Study

TUESDAY, Feb. 9, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Severe frailty significantly increases the risk of death in COVID-19 patients, British researchers say.

In their new study, the investigators analyzed data from more than 5,700 COVID-19 patients at 55 hospitals in 12 countries. They found that those who were severely frail were three times more likely to die than those who weren't frail.

That increased risk was independent of age, according to the report published Feb. 5 in the journal Age and Ageing.

The study team also found that patients with severe frailty who survived COVID-19 were seven times more likely to require increased care at home or in a group setting.

"We now have evidence to show that those most at risk from COVID-19 are those who are older, or living with frailty, or have underlying health conditions," said Dr. Daisy Wilson, clinical research fellow at the University of Birmingham, in the United Kingdom.

The risk of frailty -- which leaves the body more vulnerable to the effects of illness -- rises as people get older, but it can develop at different ages, the researchers noted in a university news release.

Senior study author Carly Welch said, "It was identified very early in the pandemic that older age was a significant risk factor for a higher chance of death with COVID-19." Welch is a clinical research fellow in geriatric medicine at the university's Institute of Inflammation & Ageing.

"However," she added, "not all older people are the same, we all age differently -- some people can live well into their 90s without developing frailty, and it can develop even without the presence of other long-term conditions."

The study also found that delirium, which is common in COVID-19 patients, is not independently linked with increased risk of death in these patients.

COVID-19 survivors are more likely to require a higher level of care after leaving the hospital if they are older, frail or have delirium, dementia or other mental health problems, the study team reported.

More information

The Canadian Frailty Network has more on frailty.

SOURCE: University of Birmingham, news release, Feb. 4, 2021

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