COVID-19: More and more young adults are seriously ill

COVID-19: More and more young adults are seriously ill

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Younger people are increasingly developing serious COVID-19 diseases

More and more young adults are developing serious COVID-19 diseases, some of which are fatal. New research has now attempted to find possible reasons for this increase.

The current study by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) investigated possible causes by which younger adults are increasingly developing serious diseases such as COVID-19. The results of the investigation were published in the English-language journal "Journal of Adolescent Health".

Data from around 8,400 people were evaluated

For the study, data from a sample of approximately 8,400 men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 were analyzed. The researchers concluded that 33 percent of the men and 30 percent of the women had a particular medical risk. The researchers report that the effects of smoking outweigh other, less common risks.

More younger adults in hospitals

U.S. data not previously considered Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that people over the age of 65 are admitted to hospital significantly more often than younger people, but this gap appears to be narrowing. When comparing hospital admissions for younger people ages 18 to 29 and people over 65, it was noted that there was a 299 percent increase in hospital admissions for young adults between April 18 and June 27. Over the same period, the increase in hospital admissions for older adults was 139 percent, the team reports.

Which risk factors played a role?

The researchers determined the existing health risk using indicators identified by the CDC. These included, for example, heart diseases, diabetes, asthma, immune diseases (such as lupus, gout, rheumatoid arthritis), liver diseases, obesity and smoking. In addition, the use of e-cigarettes, tobacco and cigar consumption were taken into account. Factors that, according to the researchers, were clearly associated with adverse effects on respiratory and immune function.

Smoking increases the risk of severe COVID-19 disease

Since there was no data on the relative effects of the individual CDC risk factors, the research group used an estimate of the medical hazard, in which at least one of the indicators was used as a result variable, and not a cumulative evaluation of the indicators. This method was used to assess the risk for each indicator, whereby, for example, 100 percent of people who smoked were susceptible to a severe course of COVID-19.

Smoking has a major impact on the course of COVID-19

Most notable among the results, the researchers said, the medical risk was 16.1 percent in 6,741 non-smokers, compared to 31.5 percent in the full sample of 8,405 young adults, which included smokers. The results suggest that smoking is more likely to progress with COVID-19, including an increased risk of serious illness, intensive care admission, or premature death, the research team reports.

Smoking increases the risk of chronic diseases

"Smoking can have a significant impact in young adults, where rates for most chronic diseases are usually low," says study author Dr. Sally Adams of UC San Francisco in a press release. A previous study has also shown that the number of younger people who smoke unfortunately seems to be increasing again.

Reduction of smoking would be appropriate

The statistical risk of serious illness has halved if smoking people have been removed from the examined sample, study author Dr. Charles Irwin Jr. From the UC of San Francisco. Efforts to reduce smoking and e-cigarette use among young adults would likely reduce their susceptibility to serious illnesses, the expert added.

Gender differences in serious illnesses

Some gender differences were identified in terms of susceptibility to serious diseases. Women were more likely to have asthma than men (10 percent vs. 7.3 percent), obesity was higher (3.3 percent vs. 2.6 percent), and immune disease was also more likely (3.2 percent) versus 1.6 percent).

Women smoked less often

It was encouraging that significantly fewer young women smoked, which was associated with a medical risk of 29.7 percent, whereas smoking among young men was associated with a medical risk of 33.3 percent. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • 1 in 3 Young Adults May Face Severe COVID-19, UCSF Study Shows, University of California San Francisco (published 07/12/2020), UCSF
  • Sally H. Adams, M. Jane Park, Jason P. Schaub, Claire D. Brindis, Charles E. Irwin Jr .: Medical Vulnerability of Young Adults to Severe COVID-19 Illness — Data From the National Health Interview Survey; in: Journal of Adolescent Health (07/13/2020),

Video: Dr. Anthony Fauci warns of more and more complications with Covid-19 in young people (December 2022).