In 2020, COVID was the leading cause of death among people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, researchers report.
For a new study, researchers looked at death certificate data from 2020 to examine the death patterns of people with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
They found that for those without IDD, COVID was the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. But for those with IDD, COVID was the number one cause of death.
IDD are conditions characterized by permanent impairments in mobility, language, learning, self-care, and independence. Examples include Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities.
The study confirms previous predictions that COVID-19 would be deadlier in people with IDD, says Scott Landes, associate professor at Syracuse University and lead author of the paper in Disability and Health Review.
“Even when we adjusted for age, gender, and racial and ethnic minority status, we found that COVID-19 was significantly more deadly for those with IDD than for those without. hadn’t,” explains Landes. “Furthermore, people with IDD were dying at a much younger age.”
To understand why the burden of COVID-19 is greater for people with IDD, researchers believe that more attention needs to be paid to comorbidities as well as living conditions.
“People with IDD live in congregate settings at a higher percentage than those without IDD,” says Landes. “Group living situations, particularly with close contact personal care support, are associated with the spread of COVID-19. For the estimated 13% to 20% of adults with IDD living in these settings, the risk cannot be overestimated. »
“While it is important to pay attention to differences in comorbidity patterns, it is also necessary to realize that the increased burden of COVID-19 in people with IDD may at least in part be due to factors social issues such as a higher proportion of this population living in group care settings, insufficient attention to care needs at the public and private levels, and inequalities in access to quality health care,” says Landes.
Additionally, the researchers note the higher occurrences of hypothyroidism and seizures among all IDD statuses, and obesity among deceased individuals with intellectual disability and Down syndrome. “As a precaution, healthcare providers should carefully monitor symptoms in COVID-19 patients with IDD diagnosed with hypothyroidism and/or seizures.”
But researchers say more work is needed to explore these social factors to better understand COVID-19 death rates in people with DID.
Additionally, the authors note that the study focuses on the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. A current inconsistency in data that allows IDD to be reported as a cause of death impedes understanding whether people with IDD continue to experience a disproportionate burden of COVID-19.
“This prevents adequate monitoring of the health of this marginalized population during the ongoing pandemic. While changes are needed to the death certificate coding and review process to address this long-term data inequity, in the immediate term, the CDC will need to recognize this inequity and take steps to enable analysis of current death certificate data at the decent level for this population,” Landes says.
Additional co-authors are from SUNY Upstate Medical Center and Syracuse University.
Source: Syracuse University