Your 'Covid-age' may be different from your actual age. Here's why

Being young doesn’t necessarily mean you’re less susceptible to catching the virus

13 November 2020 - 07:30
A physically active, healthy 75-year-old may just have better odds fighting off the virus than an unhealthy, inactive 40-year-old.
A physically active, healthy 75-year-old may just have better odds fighting off the virus than an unhealthy, inactive 40-year-old.
Image: 123RF/perig76

If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that age is not just a number. The elderly population has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, while younger people tend, in comparison, to be able to fend it off more easily.

But just because you’re young doesn’t mean you should count yourself safe just yet. According to an article in The Telegraph, some doctors have become worried that people are focusing too much on age during the pandemic.

While age does play a big role when it comes to determining how susceptible you potentially are to the virus, there are a number of other factors to consider as well. These include your sex, ethnicity, weight and various health problems.

These respective factors, when combined, might make you more susceptible to Covid-19 than someone your age typically might be.  

With this in mind, the Association of Local Authority Medical Advisors (Alama) in the UK has developed a calculator that works out a person's “Covid-age” by adding years to, or subtracting them from, their biological age according to various risk factors.

For example, because females have been shown to be less susceptible to Covid-19, selecting “female” brings down one's Covid-age by five years.

A person's body mass index (BMI), whether or not they have asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cancer, heart failure or heart disease, are all also taken into account.

According to the association, the point of calculating a person's Covid-age is to help assess their vulnerability to Covid-19, which they define as an individual's risk of developing a serious illness and dying once infected with it. (They do provide a disclaimer saying that a person's Covid-age is not an exact measure, but rather merely provides indication of such vulnerability and should not be used in line with clinical treatment.)

While the idea of one’s “Covid-age” is not being used by doctors to treat and assess patients, it does offer a little food for thought: a physically active, healthy 75-year-old may just have better odds fighting off the virus than an unhealthy, inactive 40-year-old who has to factor in the risk added by comorbidities.

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