People with intellectual disabilities were hit harder by Covid

Photo: Depositphotos
Photo: Depositphotos

People with intellectual disabilities were more likely to die from coronavirus than others during the pandemic, and the virus has had a worse impact on their general health, according to researchers at Radboud teaching hospital in Nijmegen.

At least 785 people with an intellectual impairment died of Covid in the two years of the pandemic, but proportionally, the total should have been no more than 180, the researchers told news agency ANP.

The research team also looked at other effects the pandemic had on the life expectancy of people with intellectual disabilities and concluded they were also more likely to die from cancer as well as brain and nervous system problems.

‘This shows that the existing health differences between people with and without a mental disability widened during the pandemic,’ Radboudumc researcher Maarten Cuypers told ANP.

‘Little is known about the effects of coronavirus and other viruses in people with disabilities, partly because this group is often overlooked and deviates from the ‘norm’.’

Nursing homes

People with an intellectual disability were also more likely to pick up coronavirus because they often live in institutions or small-scale units where sticking to the rules was more difficult. In addition, close contact with care staff also exposed them to more infections.

Particularly at the beginning of the pandemic there was a shortage of PPE in care homes, leading to a surge of cases among people with disabilities and the frail elderly.

More research is needed to draw up better policy for dealing with the problem, and so cut the number of deaths if a similar situation arose in the future, the researchers said.

The article has been published in The Lancet Public Health.

The Dutch safety board OVV said in February last year that a ‘silent disaster’ had taken place in the Netherlands’ care homes when the pandemic hit. Almost half the official coronavirus deaths in 2020 were among residential care residents.

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