Hothorn T, Bopp M, Günthard H, Keiser O, Roelens M, Weibull CE, Crowther M
BMJ Open 11 (3) e042387 [2021-03-08; online 2021-03-08]
Severity of the COVID-19 has been previously reported in terms of absolute mortality in SARS-CoV-2 positive cohorts. An assessment of mortality relative to mortality in the general population is presented. Retrospective population-based study. Individual information on symptomatic confirmed SARS-CoV-2 patients and subsequent deaths from any cause were compared with the all-cause mortality in the Swiss population of 2018. Starting 23 February 2020, mortality in COVID-19 patients was monitored for 80 days and compared with the population mortality observed in the same time of year starting 23 February 2018. 5 102 300 inhabitants of Switzerland aged 35-95 without COVID-19 (general population in spring 2018) and 20 769 persons tested positively for COVID-19 during the first wave in spring 2020. Sex-specific and age-specific mortality rates were estimated using Cox proportional hazards models. Absolute probabilities of death were predicted and risk was assessed in terms of relative mortality by taking the ratio between the sex-specific and age-specific absolute mortality in COVID-19 patients and the corresponding mortality in the 2018 general population. Absolute mortalities increased with age and were higher for males compared with females, both in the general population and in positively tested persons. A confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection substantially increased the probability of death across all patient groups at least eightfold. The highest relative mortality risks were observed among males and younger patients. Male COVID-19 patients exceeded the population hazard for males (HR 1.21, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.44). An additional year of age increased the population hazard in COVID-19 patients only marginally (HR 1.00, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.01). Healthcare professionals, decision-makers and societies are provided with an additional population-adjusted assessment of COVID-19 mortality risk. In combination with absolute measures of risk, the relative risks presented here help to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the actual impact of COVID-19.
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