New research has revealed for the first time the extent to which frailty increases the risk of mortality in COVID-19 patients.
The clinical observational study, involving 5,711 patients with COVID-19 at 55 hospitals across 12 countries, found that very severely frail individuals with COVID-19 are three times more likely to die than those who were not frail, even taking into account their age. It also found that those with severe frailty who survived the virus were seven times more likely to go on to need increased care at home or in care homes.
The Geriatric Medicine Research Collaborative (GeMRC) – the group of experts behind the study – are now calling for improved global public health policy after their research showed that frailty, independently of older age, increases the risk of death from COVID-19.
Frailty is a state where the body becomes more vulnerable to the effects of illness. It is identified by clinicians using a holistic assessment that considers how much support the person needs from others in their daily living before becoming unwell – not just their medical problems, but the person as a whole. The risk of frailty increases as we get older, but it can develop at different ages.
Senior author Dr Carly Welch, clinical research fellow in geriatric medicine at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Inflammation & Ageing, and Chair and Co-Founder of GeMRC, 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.
“However, 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.
“Our findings are important as we have been able to demonstrate that not only older age but also frailty, independently from one another, increase the risk of death from COVID-19 and also a subsequent increased need in care for survivors.”