Researchers have found that individuals with learning disabilities are more likely to suffer from severe cases of COVID-19 infection, with higher rates of hospitalization and mortality, which is exacerbated for individuals with profound disabilities such as Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy.
Further evidence indicating symptom severity of COVID-19 increases with comorbidity
From the onset of the pandemic, researchers have attempted to identify individuals at high risk from the symptoms of COVID-19, and mounting evidence has suggested that individuals suffering from other medical conditions are particularly susceptible. However, it is difficult to disentangle the effects of COVID-19 from other conditions, making accurate predictions difficult.
This pattern has also been observed in people with a learning disability, as clinical results of patients have often been confounded by multiple factors such as deprivation, lack of standardization, and comorbidities.
To address this limitation, UK researchers have compared the risk of COVID-19 related hospital admissions and deaths among children and adults with learning disabilities in England with the general population.
Researchers used data from over 17 million people registered with a general practice in England linked to hospital admission and mortality data totaling 14,312,023 adults and 2,627,018 children. Data dated back from both infection waves: wave 1 (registered with a general practice as of 1 March 2020 and followed until 31 August 2020); and wave 2 (registered 1 September 2020 and followed until 8 February 2021). The team then accounted for potentially confounding factors including age, sex, ethnicity, and geographical location.
From the data collected, adults with a learning disability had a 5-fold higher risk of COVID-19 related hospital admission and an 8-fold higher risk of COVID-19 related death than adults not on the register. This increase was even higher for individuals with severe to profound learning disabilities than those with a milder learning disability and was also higher among those in residential care.
For children, similar patterns were observed, but authors described that the absolute risks of COVID-19 hospital admission and death among children were limited free download, so comparative analyses did not reveal major differences.
The findings of this study are primarily observational, and researchers stress that the results demonstrate the need to establish more preventative measures and post-infection treatments for individuals in this group. Such a drastic increase in case of severity warrants prioritization as well as further examination.