Older patients and people with preexisting health conditions face the highest risk of dying from the new coronavirus, a recent study found. 

The study, done by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found that the overall chances of dying from COVID-19 — the disease caused by the virus — are 2.3%. Other estimates suggest the fatality rate could be higher: around 4.3%. The current rate, based on the ratio of reported deaths to total cases worldwide, hovers around 3.4%.

But the Chinese CDC study found that the fatality rate rate rose to 8% for patients in their 70s and 15% among those in their 80s.Out of more than 44,000 coronavirus patients studied, the majority of deaths were among those at least 60 or older.

Older patients are also more likely to have preexisting health problems. The first patient to die of the coronavirus in the US, for instance, was a man in his 50s who had been chronically ill before getting infected.

Nearly 5,300 patients in the Chinese study reported a health condition not related to the virus, such as cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Around 7% of those cases — more than 370 patients — died. Overall, patients with preexisting conditions represented more than a third of all deaths reported in the study. The fatality rate for patients who reported no underlying health problem was less than 1%. 

Here’s the mortality rate for each preexisting condition reported in the study:

covid 19 preexisiting health problems chart



Ruobing Su/Business Insider


The authors were missing the health history of more than 20,000 patients in their study, but their research is still provides one of the broadest pictures so far of how COVID-19 operates in humans.

Among coronavirus patients, the preexisting condition that raises risk most appears to be heart disease. Patients already diagnosed with heart disease had a fatality rate of more than 10%. Diabetes was the preexisting condition with the second-highest fatality rate: 7%. 

Patients with the most commonly reported preexisting condition, hypertension (high blood pressure), had a fatality rate of 6%. Coronavirus patients with cancer had a similar fatality rate. 

In total, COVID-19 has killed nearly 3,000 people and infected around 86,000. The outbreak originated in Wuhan, central China’s most populous city, and has since spread to at least 58 other countries. More than 90% of cases are on the Chinese mainland. 

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