COVID-19: Are hospital patients getting younger?

·2-min read

There are now almost double the number of people in hospital with COVID-19 than during the peak last spring.

Doctors say they are also seeing more younger patients than before.

The divisional director of Barnet Hospital, Sarah Stanley, told Sky News that the average age has fallen from 70 to 59 years old.

Does the data tell the same story? Are coronavirus patients now younger? And are younger people now at greater risk of dying than previously?

More people overall are being admitted to hospital now compared to last spring and the average age of patients has reduced.

The data suggests the 18-54 and 55-64 age groups now make up a greater proportion of patients than previously.

This potentially puts the NHS under greater strain as these patients tend to remain in hospital for longer than the oldest age group.

But, while more patients are younger, the risk to all ages of becoming seriously ill has remained similar.

If you consider the hospital admission rate per population, people aged over 85 are still most likely to need hospital treatment for COVID-19, followed by those aged between 75 and 84.

However, the rate for younger age groups has increased slightly, but not significantly, in recent weeks.

The same pattern can be seen for the risk of dying with the virus.

Research from Imperial College London has found the risk doubles for roughly every eight years of ageing, from 0.1% for people under 40 to 5% for people aged over 80.

The chart below shows the number of people who have died with COVID-19 in each age group as a proportion of their population. The darker the colour, the higher the rate.

The distribution on the right, relating to the most recent weeks, is similar to that in April last year when deaths peaked for the first time.

So, while more younger people are ending up in hospital with a COVID-19 diagnosis and the average age of patients has fallen, the risk of serious illness and death remains similar for all groups.

What is also clear though is that more people overall are being admitted to hospital with the virus now than in spring.