New Study Finds Risk of Contracting COVID-19 was Twice as High for People with Dementia

Findings were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association on Feb. 9

CEDAR RAPIDS, February 9, 2021 – Using electronic health record data from 61.9 million American adults, researchers at Case Western University found the risk of contracting COVID-19 was twice as high for people in the study with dementia than for those without it — while among those in the study with dementia, African Americans had close to three times the risk of being infected with COVID-19 as Whites did. The findings were published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association on Feb. 9.

These findings, though preliminary, suggest a frightening reality of the vulnerabilities associated with living with dementia. It has been speculated since the beginning of the pandemic that – because of the vulnerabilities associated with the disease – individuals with dementia are at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19. Now, the credible data published in the Alzheimer’s Association’s journal, Alzheimer’s & Dementia shows a clear connection.

In addition, the Alzheimer’s Association has emphasized that dementia symptoms can also put a person at higher risk. These symptoms may make a person forget to wear a mask, physically distance from others or frequently clean their hands, which further increases risk. It is likely not dementia itself that increases risk of COVID-19, but rather the symptoms of dementia that make a person more vulnerable. Living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia can lead to a higher likelihood of living in a long-term care facility as well, resulting in higher COVID-19 risk.

More research is needed to understand exactly what is happening in the brains of individuals with dementia that may be making them more susceptible to COVID-19. The Alzheimer’s Association and representatives from more than 30 countries have formed an international consortium to study the short- and long-term consequences of COVID-19 on the brain and nervous system in people at different ages, and from different genetic backgrounds. The Alzheimer’s Association is funding the initial work of the consortium.

The Alzheimer’s Association is here to help families take the necessary measures to prepare for and cope with such extraordinary circumstances. For more information, visit alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900. 

Alzheimer’s Association®

The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Its mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.