Symptoms of COVID-19 among older adults: a systematic review of biomedical literature

Geriatr Psychol Neuropsychiatr Vieil. 2020 Jun 1;18(2):135-139. doi: 10.1684/pnv.2020.0890.


The COVID-19 pandemic affects older adults particularly severely. Our objective was to identify from the international literature the symptoms most commonly experienced by older adults infected with SARS-CoV-2. This systematic literature review was conducted using MEDLINE between 1 December 2019 and 13 April 2020. The methodological quality analysis used a method dedicated to case series and case reports. Of the 260 articles initially identified, only two studies were ultimately included in the qualitative analysis. The mean age was relatively low, between 71 and 74 years on average. COVID-19 symptoms were as follows: fever, dry cough, dyspnoea, asthenia, anorexia, chest tightness, diarrhoea and, to a lesser extent, myalgia, pharyngitis, nausea, dizziness, headache, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Lymphopenia was noted from complete blood counts. In conclusion, this systematic review of the international literature reveals a lack of data about the semiology of COVID-19 in older adults, especially in very elderly frail people, who are normally considered to constitute the geriatric population. The national survey conducted by the Société Française de Gériatrie et Gérontologie will help bridge this semiological gap.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; elderly; semiology; symptomatology.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Coronavirus Infections / physiopathology
  • Frail Elderly
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / physiopathology