Increased age appears to be a strong risk factor for COVID-19 severe outcomes. However, studies do not sufficiently consider the age-dependency of other important factors influencing the course of disease. The aim of this review was to quantify the isolated effect of age on severe COVID-19 outcomes. We searched Pubmed to find relevant studies published in 2020. Two independent reviewers evaluated them using predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. We extracted the results and assessed seven domains of bias for each study. After adjusting for important age-related risk factors, the isolated effect of age was estimated using meta-regression. Twelve studies met our inclusion criteria: four studies for COVID-19 disease severity, seven for mortality, and one for admission to ICU. The crude effect of age (5.2% and 13.4% higher risk of disease severity and death per age year, respectively) substantially decreased when adjusting for important age-dependent risk factors (diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease/cerebrovascular disease, compromised immunity, previous respiratory disease, renal disease). Adjusting for all six comorbidities indicates a 2.7% risk increase for disease severity (two studies), and no additional risk of death per year of age (five studies). The indication of a rather weak influence of age on COVID-19 disease severity after adjustment for important age-dependent risk factors should be taken in consideration when implementing age-related preventative measures (e.g., age-dependent work restrictions).
Keywords: COVID-19; age; disease severity; mortality.