Less than three percent of young adults hospitalized with coronavirus die, a new study suggests.
But the research from Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that black patients in the former pandemic epicenter are three-times more likely to need life support or die, compared to their white peers.
And regardless of age, people who are diabetic, obese, have high blood pressure or a combination of two or three of those conditions have far poorer chances of survival, the new study found.
Although death rates among 18- to 34-year-olds remain low, the study found that 21 percent need to be treated in intensive care units (ICU).
Findings from the research, published Wednesday in JAMA Internal Medicine, underscore that while COVID-19 may not be as lethal to them, young adults, including college students, thousands of whom have recently been sent home from school with the virus, could still face very serious illness.
Young adults who are obese, diabetic or have high blood pressure are far more likely to need life support or die of coronavirus, a new study finds
Of the nearly 781,000 adults that were discharged from more than 1,000 US hospitals between April 1 and June 30, 63,103 had tested positive for coronavirus.
Five percent of those covid-positive people (3,222 patients) were between ages 18 and 34.
As the pandemic has progressed and older adults have learned to stay home to protect their lives, it’s become clear that this young age group is particularly at risk for catching coronavirus, if not dying of it.
In part, this may be because young adults are more likely than, say, people over 65, to work ‘essential jobs’ – whether in health care or service – that required them to continue to go to work throughout the pandemic.
Minority people in New York have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19 – and young adults are no exception, according to the new study.
Black and Hispanic people were far more likely to have to continue working throughout the pandemic, increasing their exposure risks.
Among the young patients, nearly half of those who wound up on ventilators or died of COVID-19 were ‘black and/or Hispanic,’ while white patients accounted for just 17 percent of people with such poor outcomes.
But the hubris factor cannot be ignored.
This spring, as much of the nation locked down and coronavirus swept through nursing homes like wildfire, leaving a trail of deaths in its wake, some young people kept socializing and partying.
They were seen wearing swimsuits, but not masks, on spring break. Bars and frat parties replaced nursing homes and meat packing plants as the most closely watched hotspots of the summer.
In a rare moment of unity, health officials from the White House to the World Health Organization (WHO) warned young people: ‘you are not invincible.’
Young people rose to represent nearly 40 percent of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients in New York in March.
According to the data from Premier Applied Science’s database, that rate was lower in the US as spring turned to summer, but was still significant.
Out of the 684 young adults who were sick enough to need to be treated in ICUs, 10 percent had to be kept alive by mechanical ventilators.
By the end of June, 88 people who should have been in the prime of their lives had died.
Many of the patients suffered some of the most common chronic conditions in the US: obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
More than half of the patients who died or needed to be on life support were obese. More than 40 percent of them were ‘morbidly’ obese.
Nearly a third (31 percent) of those who fared so poorly had high blood pressure, and 27 percent had diabetes.
The odds that a patient who had one of these conditions would die of COVID-19 were about twice as high compared to patients with none of these risk factors.
Young patients with two or all three of these conditions – morbid obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure – were at about as much risk as middle-aged people (those between 35 and 64).
And, troublingly, men accounted for 65 percent of all the young patients who needed ventilators or died.
‘Combined with what we know about the greater risk of older persons, what does this study tell us about COVID-19 and young adults?,’ asked Dr Mitchell Katz of NYC Health and Hospitals in commentary published with the study.
‘First, while young adults are much less likely than older persons to become seriously ill, if they reach the point of hospitalization, their risks are substantial.
‘Second, obesity, hypertension, and male sex put patients of all ages at greater risk. As obesity and hypertension are preventable and treatable conditions, reducing the risk of serious COVID 19 illness should be added to the already long list of reasons to increase medical and public health efforts in young adults to promote healthful diets and increased exercise.’
Dr Katz added that the new study leaves no doubt that COVID-19 is a life-threatening disease for people of all ages.