Syracuse, N.Y. - A new study published recently in ScienceDirect by researchers from Syracuse University and SUNY Upstate Medical University shows that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are more likely to die from COVID-19 than those without IDD.
According to the researchers, the disparity is likely related to a higher prevalence of comorbid diseases among those with IDD, and/or a higher percentage of people with IDD are living in congregate residential settings.
Their study, "Intellectual and Developmental Disability and COVID-19 Case-Fatality Trends: TriNetX Analysis," was published by ScienceDirect's Disability and Health Journal. The study included 30,282 people who were identified as COVID-19 positive in the TriNetX COVID-19 Research Network Platform.
"More attention is needed to this vulnerable health population in order to ensure their safety and well-being during this pandemic, including careful attention to the impact of public policies such as PPE prioritization and funding streams on the ability of residential service providers to guarantee quality care during this time," said researcher Scott Landes, an associate professor of sociology at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and a research affiliate for the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion.
The study was conducted by Landes and three researchers from SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, N.Y.: Dr. Margaret Turk, professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation; Dr. Margaret Formica, associate professor of public health and preventative medicine and associate professor of urology; and Katherine Goss from the Disability & Health Research Team. Here is a more detailed look at their findings:
Every individual in this study had COVID-19, so rates are case-fatality rates that gave the researchers an idea of the severity of the disease among both groups. Among ages 0-17, for every 100 individuals with COVID-19, 1.6 with IDD died and less than one without IDD died. Among ages 18-74, for every 100 individuals with COVID-19, 4.5 with IDD died compared to 2.7 without IDD. Rates were similar for those 75 and over - for every 100 individuals with COVID-19, 21.1 with IDD died and 20.7 without IDD died.
"Based upon the case fatality rates we report among those ages 18-74, if 100,000 individuals with IDD contract COVID-19 - which is entirely possible in light of the estimates of the size of this population and the cumulative incidence rates we are seeing in our research - we would expect 4,500 to die," Landes said. "Comparatively, among 100,000 individuals without IDD, we would expect 2,700 to die. That would be an excess of 1,800 IDD deaths and in my mind that is unacceptable."
The researchers also found that individuals with IDD had a higher prevalence of comorbid circulatory, respiratory, and endocrine diseases across all age groups. While they could not test causality in this data, it is possible this partly explains the differences they found in case-fatality rates. Some of this difference may also be due to the higher percentage of individuals with IDD who reside in congregate settings - a characteristic the researchers could not account for in the study but are continuing to investigate.