Experts explain that the main reason for this could be a weakened immune system due to age. Older adults also have a higher probability of suffering from an existing medical condition such as heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes, which can impact the organism’s ability to defend itself.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 87% of cases in that country were diagnosed in people who were between 30 and 79 years old. This percentage came from an analysis of the first 72,000 cases, concentrated largely in the Wuhan region of China. 8.1% of cases were diagnosed in people between 20 and 29 years of age; 1.2% were adolescents; and 0.9% were under 9 years old.
The same study revealed a lethality rate (deaths due to COVID-19) of 14.5% in people older than 80 years old, and 1.3% in people in their 50s. The lethality rate decreased along with age: 0.4% in people in their 40s, and 0.2% in people between 10 and 39 years old.
In the United States, the outbreak at the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, in the state of Washington, also reflected this pattern: the older the age, the higher the risk. So far, we know that 8 of every 10 deaths in this country were in adults 65 years or older.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that between 10 to 27% of deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States are linked to people older than 85. And between 4 and 11% of deaths occur in patients who are between 65 and 84 years old.
What you can do
If you have a serious underlying medical condition:
- Stay home if possible.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid close contact (6 feet, which is about two arm lengths) with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched services.
- Avoid all cruise travel and non-essential air travel.
- Call your healthcare professional if you have concerns about COVID-19 and your underlying condition or if you are sick.
For more information on steps you can take to protect yourself, see CDC’s How to Protect Yourself
Stress and coping
Older people are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 which may result in increased stress during a crisis.
Fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.
Things you can do to support yourself:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories and social media.
- Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
- Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
- Call your healthcare provider if stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in a row.