The risk of dying from COVID-19 infection triples with every ten years of age, according to international research conducted in Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).
The research reviewed more than 100 studies encompassing hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 cases in developed countries across the globe, and found an exponential link between age and infection mortality rate.
This means that while the mortality rate is very low for children – around 0.002% – it rises to 1.4% at age 65 and 15% at age 85, proving the disease is not only significantly more dangerous than seasonal influenza, but also poses a greater risk to middle-aged people than motor vehicle accidents.
WSLHD diabetes research coordinator Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz is one of the authors behind two international studies examining the data, spearheaded by Professor Andrew Levin from Dartmouth College in the USA. The research has been quoted by leading bodies including the US Centre for Disease Control and the Australian National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance.
“We were among the first people to put all this data from around the world into a statistical model so that we could asses the risk that someone would die from COVID-19 infection,” Gideon said.
“What we found and demonstrated was that age was the main factor contributing to death, which is why this study has been so well received.
“Roughly the risk of death from COVID increases by about three times for every 10 years, so a 30 year old is three times more likely to die than a 20 year old, and so on. And with this information you can really plan for what would happen if there is a COVID outbreak in your community.”
Gideon did all the work is his spare time – a far cry from his day job monitoring chronic disease with Western Sydney Diabetes.
“I’ve weirdly become something of a global expert on COVID death rates, which is bizarre,” he said.
“I’m motivated by the global importance of this problem. We’ve been insulated from the worst of COVID, but it’s been a tragic, awful situation for large parts of the world. I suddenly had time on my hands in lockdown and this was something I could do to help the global effort.”
Gideon is continuing his research now with developing countries, where reliable data on COVID deaths is much harder to come by.