Coronavirus deaths by age: Older people are far more likely to die

Soe Zeya Tun/ReutersA man wears a mask to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus as he walks near the Grand Palace at Bangkok, Thailand February 2, 2020.A study of more than 44,000 coronavirus patients found that patients over age 80 have a 15% chance of dying.Patients in their 50s were about three times more likely…


Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters

A man wears a mask to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus as he walks near the Grand Palace at Bangkok, Thailand February 2, 2020.

The coronavirus has reached every continent except Antarctica, but it doesn’t infect all patients equally.

A recent study from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the virus most seriously affects older people with preexisting health problems. Around 80% of coronavirus cases are mild, the research showed.

The study collected data from more than 44,000 confirmed patients in China through February 11, offering one of broadest depictions of how COVID-19 (the disease caused by the virus) operates in humans.  

The data suggests a person’s chances of dying from the disease increase with age. Here’s the mortality rate for every age bracket, according to the study:

  • Children and teens (ages 10 – 19): 0.2%
  • 20s: 0.2%
  • 30s: 0.2%
  • 40s: 0.4%
  • 50s: 1.3%
  • 60s: 3.6%
  • 70s: 8.0%
  • 80s and older: 14.8%

The study did not report any deaths in children below age 10, who represented less than 1% of the patients.

Patients ages 10 to 19 were just as likely to die as patients in their 30s, but patients in their 50s were about three times more likely to die than patients in their 40s. 

The risk of dying is dramatically higher among patients in their 70s and 80s, likely because many of those people have preexisting health issues.

Coronavirus patients with heart disease, for instance, had around a 10% mortality rate, according to the study, while those with diabetes had around a 7% mortality rate.

Around three-quarters of the Chinese patients had no preexisting health problems. The fatality rate for that group was just under 1%.

Here’s how the coronavirus compares to a handful of other major outbreaks.

Fatality statistics could change as the coronavirus continues to spread around the globe, however.

“If indeed we discover that there are far more cases that are actually being reported – and that one of the primary reasons for this is that we’re just not detecting asymptomatic or mild or moderately symptomatic cases that don’t end up seeking healthcare – then our estimates for the case fatality rate will likely decrease,” Lauren Ancel Meyers, an epidemiologist at the University of Texas at Austin, told Business Insider. 

In total, COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected more than 82,000. It originated in Wuhan, central China’s most populous city, and has since spread to 47 other countries. About 95% of cases are on the Chinese mainland. 

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