In Brief

What are the underlying health causes of most coronavirus deaths?

New research shows that one in four Covid-19 victims in England and Wales had dementia

People with dementia account for a quarter of all Covid-related deaths in England and Wales, according to a new study.

The research, published by the London School of Economics (LSE) and University College London (UCL), also found that 31% of coronavirus deaths in Scotland involved dementia sufferers.

The majority of people who do not survive the virus have at least one underlying condition. “Coronavirus was the sole cause of death for just 6% of fatalities” in the US, the Daily Mail reports, citing figures from the country’s Centers for Disease Control.

In the UK, the NHS has published a list of conditions linked with an “extreme risk” of coronavirus complications, with the most vulnerable including people who:

  • have had an organ transplant
  • are having chemotherapy and other cancer treatments
  • have a severe lung condition
  • have a condition that means they have a very high risk of getting infections
  • are taking medicine that makes them much more likely to get infections
  • have a serious heart condition or are pregnant.

Moderate risk groups include those who have a non-severe lung condition, heart disease, diabetes, chronic liver or kidney disease or are very obese (with a BMI of 40 or above).

Neither of the risk lists include dementia, although the elderly are vulnerable to both diseases. In fact, age is the “biggest risk factor for dementia and older people are the most at-risk group for coronavirus, with 86% of all deaths among people aged 65 and over”, says The Guardian.

Dementia sufferers are also more likely to live in care homes, which have been badly affected by the virus in many countries. In Spain, 75% of care home residents with dementia died of Covid-19, according to the LSE/UCL study.

Alzheimer’s Disease International chief executive Paola Barbarino said the findings were “extremely worrying” and has called on governments to act.

“People with dementia are being disproportionately impacted by this pandemic and are in danger of being forgotten,” she added. “Now more than ever, we need to talk about dementia.” 

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