Intellectual disability puts individuals at higher risk of dying earlier in life than the general population, for a variety of medical and institutional reasons. A new study, (published 3/5/21) from Jefferson Health, examined how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected this group, which makes up 1–3% of the US population. The study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) Catalyst, found that intellectual disability was second only to older age as a risk factor for dying from COVID-19.
“The chances of dying from COVID-19 are higher for those with intellectual disability than they are for people with congestive heart failure, kidney disease or lung disease,” says lead author Jonathan Gleason, MD, the James D. and Mary Jo Danella Chief Quality Officer for Jefferson Health. “That is a profound realization that we have not, as a healthcare community, fully appreciated until now.”
The authors examined 64 million patient records from 547 health care organizations between January 2019 and November 2020, to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with intellectual disabilities. They identified variables such as COVID-19, intellectual disability or other health conditions, as well as demographic factors such as age.
The results showed that those with intellectual disabilities were 2.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19, were about 2.7 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital, and 5.9 times more likely to die from the infection than the general population.