You're Twice as Likely to Catch COVID If You Have This, Study Says

New research shows this condition significantly increases your risk of coming down with COVID.

As the pandemic has progressed, the scientific community has slowly developed a better understanding of who is most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. But while age and certain underlying health conditions have long been understood to increase your risk of developing a serious case that requires hospitalization, new discoveries are still being made about which members of the population are at a higher risk of contracting the virus altogether. Now, a new study out of the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University has found that people with dementia are twice as likely to catch COVID than those who do not. Read on to see what other results the analysis turned up, and for more on other factors that could be putting you at risk, check out If You've Done This, You're Twice as Likely to Develop Severe COVID.

Dementia patients are at a higher risk of catching COVID-19.

A senior woman wearing a face mask sits at a window with a distressed look on her face.

The sweeping study, published in the journal of the Alzheimer's Association, analyzed the health records of 61.9 million people 18 years old and above in the United States between Feb. 1 and Aug. 21, 2020, The New York Times reports. The data set considered for the study was one the largest used in COVID research so far, covering one-fifth of the population of the U.S. with information from 317,000 health care providers and 360 hospitals from all 50 states, according to the authors.

After parsing data, the researchers found that 810 patients had dementia out of a group of 15,770 who had tested positive for COVID-19. When adjustments for certain demographic factors such as sex, age, and race were made, the researchers discovered that patients with dementia were more than three times as likely to catch COVID-19, with the group only narrowing slightly to twice as likely when other physical conditions or residency in a nursing home were accounted for. And for more risk factors that should be on your radar, check out If You've Had This Common Illness, You're More Likely to Die From COVID.

Dementia patients also saw worse outcomes from the disease.

A nurse wearing full protective gear shows a framed photo to an elderly patient in a hospital bed suffering from COVID wearing a face mask and oxygen mask

The researchers also analyzed hospitalization and death rates for the subset of patients, discovering that COVID patients with dementia were also 2.6 times more likely to have been hospitalized and 4.4 times more likely to die than patients without dementia when demographic conditions such as nursing home residency, age, or other preexisting conditions were factored in.

"It's pretty convincing in suggesting that there's something about dementia that makes you more vulnerable," Kristine Yaffe, MD, a professor of neurology and psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study, told The New York Times. And for more on how to stay safe from infection, find out why Dr. Fauci Says You Need One of These at Home to Avoid COVID.

The study found that Black dementia patients are even more likely to be infected.

FG Trade / iStock

The study's wide data set also found other tragic demographic trends. Results showed that Black patients with dementia were almost three times more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than white patients with dementia, with the study's authors concluding that their findings highlight "the need to protect patients with dementia, especially those who are Black." And for more regular COVID news sent right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Researchers think specific vulnerabilities could be to blame.

doctor talking to elderly patient wearing mask

Experts point out that with certain high-risk factors taken into consideration, the reason dementia patients may be more likely to catch the coronavirus could be the result of their daily environment. "Folks with dementia are more dependent on those around them to do the safety stuff, to remember to wear a mask, to keep people away through social distancing," Kenneth Langa, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the study, told The Times. "There is the cognitive impairment and the fact that they are more socially at risk." And for more on what might protect you from getting sick, check out This Rare Trait Could Keep You Safe From COVID, According to Doctors.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
Filed Under