Intellectual disability puts individuals at higher risk of dying earlier in life than the general population, for a variety of medical and institutional reasons. A new study from Jefferson Health examined how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected this group, which makes up 1-3% of the US population. The study, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) Catalyst, found that intellectual disability was second only to older age as a risk factor for dying from COVID-19.
The results of the study also showed that those with intellectual disabilities were 2.5 times more likely to contract COVID-19, were about 2.7 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital and 5.9 times more likely to die from the infection than the general population.
“As an organization deeply committed to advocating for the health of one of the most marginalized populations—those with intellectual disabilities (ID)—we have seen the need for people with ID to be prioritized as a high-risk group during this pandemic. It’s devastating to hear that people with ID are almost six times more likely to die from COVID-19,” said Alicia Bazzano, MD, PhD, MPH, Chief Health Officer of Special Olympics. “Most health authorities do not recognize that people with ID who get COVID-19 have a much higher risk of dying. Special Olympics is grateful to the Jefferson team for shining a spotlight on these devastating numbers."