Around a third of people 65 and over developed at least one new health condition after being infected with COVID-19 in 2020, according to a new study.
In keeping with the varied symptoms of a SARS-CoV-2 infection (and long COVID), the subsequent conditions affected a wide range of major organs and systems, leading to new mental health disorders as well as physical.
The grave statistic comes from a paper published in The BMJ looking at insurance plan records from 2020. They were able to identify 133,366 adults aged 65 or over for analysis, looking for reports of new or persistent health conditions from three weeks after a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis.
Their results revealed that 32 in every 100 of those people developed at least one new problem requiring medical intervention following their SARS-CoV-2 infection. This was compared against two control groups that hadn’t had COVID-19 from 2019 and 2020, plus a group that had got sick with a different respiratory illness such as bronchitis, influenza, or non-bacterial pneumonia.
Comparisons showed adults with COVID-19 had an 11 percent higher chance of developing one or more conditions following infection compared to the non-COVID 2020 group, and 7.9 percent higher than the non-COVID 2019 group. The risk was actually lower compared to the respiratory infection group, but only by 1.4 percent.
Conditions that followed the COVID-19 diagnosis – referred to as sequelae – included liver abnormalities, cardiac problems, diabetes, respiratory failure, mental health disorders, and fatigue and myalgia, with the latter two being the most frequently reported.
“In a population of adults aged [65 years or over] after acute infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, we found that 32 percent of individuals were diagnosed as having one or more persistent or new clinical sequelae that required medical attention during the post-acute phase of the illness, 11 percentage points higher than a comparator cohort,” concluded the study authors, noting that not all people in the age category were affected equally.
“An increased risk for these sequelae was evident among those who were admitted to hospital for COVID-19 disease, but the risk of several sequelae was also increased for men, for those of black race, and for those aged [75 and over],” they said.
It’s hoped the findings can contribute towards establishing the best management for patients following a SARS-CoV-2 infection and paint a clearer picture of the conditions patients and physicians should look out for following a COVID-19 diagnosis.