Study Shows People with Disability Experience More Severe COVID-19 Cases than People without Disability

In October 2022, on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America 2022, the Oxford University Press published “Severity of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Hospitalization Outcomes and Patient Disposition Differ by Disability Status and Disability Type.”

The authors used the Premier Healthcare Database Special COVID-19 Release (PHD-SR) to examine whether severity of COVID-19 hospitalization outcomes and disposition differ by disability status and disability type. The PHD-SR is a large hospital-based administrative database, and allowed the authors to study 20% of US COVID-19 hospital admissions during April 2020 through November 2021. The types of disabilities studied included intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), mobility disabilities, hearing disabilities, and vision disabilities.

The study found:

  • People with disability were more likely than people with no disability to have medical complications when hospitalized for COVID-19.
  • When hospitalized for COVID-19, people with disability were more likely than people with no disability to die in the hospital.
  • People with disability were more likely than people without disability to have longer hospital stays and be readmitted to hospitals because of COVID-19.
  • People with disability were significantly more likely to be institutionalized after discharge from the hospital.
  • People with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) had the highest risk for bad outcomes, including an increased risk of being placed on a ventilator, in-hospital death, going back to the hospital, and a longer length of hospital stay than people without disability.

The study concludes:

  • Severity of COVID-19 hospitalization outcomes vary by disability status and type.
  • People with IDD and mobility disability were associated with higher risks of negative outcomes.
  • Differences in how people with different disability are treated and where they go after being discharged require further study. To do this, standardized data on disability is needed.
  • Increased readmission across people with different disability types indicates a need to improve discharge planning and support services.

It is clear that, when hospitalized, people with certain disability types are more likely than people without disability to experience more severe cases of COVID-19 and become institutionalized after discharge from the hospital.

The implications, however, of these findings on disabled communities of color are unclear. Given the demographics provided in the study, The Partnership suggests further analysis to determine potential disparities by race and ethnicity.

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