Severe COVID-19 Risk Factors for Younger Populations

Associations found in people under the age of 45 were weaker in patients over that age.

A recent study conducted by investigators from the Mayo Clinic, in collaboration with the Rochester Epidemiology Project, has discovered what risk factors can lead to a more severe form of COVID-19 disease in younger populations and how they may differ from those in people of an older age group.

Results from the study were published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"Medical care is really fragmented in our country, so someone diagnosed with COVID-19 at one health care provider might end up at a totally different hospital for their severe case. If those records are not linked together, there's really not a good way for us to understand that that is even the same patient," Jennifer St. Sauver, a first author on the study. "By contrast, the Rochester Epidemiology Project allowed us to follow patients from the time they were diagnosed through their use of health care after that diagnosis, even if they were taken care of at different places.”

For the study, the team of investigators analyzed over 1.7 million medical records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project and studied people living in a 27-county region of Southeast Minnesota and West Central Wisconsin surrounding Mayo Clinic in Rochester diagnosed with COVID-19 between March and September of 2020.

Findings from the study found that the biggest risk factor difference between the age groups was cancer. Cancer was found to be a strong risk factor for people under the age of 45 but was not a significant factor for those above that age.

Additionally, it was observed that the younger age group had a greater than 3-fold increased risk for a severe COVID-19 infection if they had heart disease, blood, neurologic or endocrine disorders.

"The Rochester Epidemiology Project allows us to study diseases, such as COVID-19, in a defined population, which provides the ability to translate our results to all people with COVID-19, not just those with the most severe disease requiring medical care," Celine Vachon, a senior author on the study said. "This type of infrastructure will allow us to follow patients who had COVID-19 in the 27-county region over time to better understand any future links to disease."