In a new study, researchers found for the first time the extent to which frailty increases the death risk in COVID-19 patients.
They found very severely frail individuals with COVID-19 are 3 times more likely to die than those who were not frail, even taking into account their age.
They also found that those with severe frailty who survived the virus were 7 times more likely to go on to need increased care at home or in care homes.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Birmingham.
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.
In the study, the team tested 5,711 patients with COVID-19 at 55 hospitals across 12 countries.
They also showed that delirium—a state of clouding of the mind and extremely prevalent in patients with COVID-19—is not itself independently linked to increased risk of mortality.
Meanwhile, there is an increased likelihood of transition to a higher level of care on discharge from hospital for those COVID-19 patients with increasing age, frailty, delirium, dementia, and mental health problems.
The findings suggest that those most at risk from COVID-19 are those who are older, or living with frailty, or have underlying health conditions.
The team hopes the research findings will influence public health policy, including advice on shielding and recommendations for prioritization on vaccination for those with frailty.
One author of the study is Dr. Carly Welch, a clinical research fellow in geriatric medicine.
The study is published in Age And Ageing.