I'll die at 60

Covid death rate: Older men are particularly at risk

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Out of 1,000 people under the age of 50 infected with the coronavirus, less than one dies on average. In contrast, it is different for people over the age of 50: an average of 5 in 1,000 die here, more men than women. The risk then increases sharply with age. Out of 1,000 infected people in their mid-70s, an average of 116 people die. These numbers come from the first detailed studies of the risk of death for Covid-19.

The relationship between age and the risk of death in the event of a corona infection has been quite robust since the beginning of the pandemic. Research teams that tested the general population in Spain, England, Italy and Switzerland for antibodies have now quantified that risk, says Marm Kilpatrick, an infectious disease researcher at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "That gives us a much closer look when we ask how the disease might affect a particular demographic," says Kilpatrick.

The studies show that age is by far the strongest predictor of the risk of death for an infected person - a metric that epidemiologists refer to as the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR). It is the proportion of people who are infected with the virus - including those who have not been tested or show no symptoms - who die as a result.

Covid is more deadly than driving a car for 60-year-olds

"Covid-19 is not only risky for the elderly, it's extremely dangerous for people in their mid-50s and 60s and 70s," said Andrew Levin, an economist at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He has estimated that Covid-19 is more than 50 times more likely to be fatal for a 60-year-old than driving a car.

But "age can't explain everything," says Henrik Salje, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Cambridge, UK. Gender is also a strong risk factor. Men are almost twice as likely to die from the consequences of the coronavirus as women. The differences between countries also suggest that the risk of death is also related to the underlying health conditions: the capacity of health systems, for example, and whether the virus has spread in old people's homes.

To estimate the risk of death by age, the researchers use data from antibody prevalence studies, that is, studies that estimate how many people were infected for the general population. In June and July, thousands of people across England received a pinprick antibody test in the mail. Of the 109,000 randomly selected adolescents and adults who took the test, around 6 percent had antibodies to Sars-CoV-2. Using this as a basis, the researchers calculated an overall IFR for England of 0.9 percent - 9 deaths per 1,000 people infected. For 15 to 44 year olds, the IFR was close to zero, for 65 to 74 year olds it rose to 3.1 percent and for older people to 11.6 percent. The results of the study were published on the medRxiv preprint server.