Background: Older people are particularly vulnerable to severe COVID-19. Little is known about long-term consequences of COVID-19 on health-related quality of life (HR-QoL) and functional status in older people, and the impact of age in this context. We aimed to study age-related change in health-related quality of life, functional decline and mortality among older patients 6 months following hospitalisation due to COVID-19.
Methods: This was a cohort study including patients aged 60 years and older admitted to four general hospitals in South-Eastern Norway due to COVID-19, from March 1 up until July 1, 2020. Patients who were still alive were invited to attend a six-month follow-up. Change in HR-QoL and functional status compared to before the COVID-19 hospitalisation were assessed using the EuroQol 5-dimensional-5 levels questionnaire (EQ. 5D-5L). A change in visual analogue scale (VAS) score of 7 or more was considered clinically relevant.
Results: Out of 216 patients aged 60 years and older that were admitted to hospital due to COVID-19 during the study period, 171 were still alive 180 days after hospital admission, and 106 patients (62%) attended the six-month follow-up. Mean age was 74.3 years, 27 patients (26%) had experienced severe COVID-19. Fifty-seven participants (54%) reported a decrease in the EQ. 5D-5L VAS score after 6 months, with no significant difference between persons aged 75 years and older compared to younger. Seventy participants (66%) reported a negative change in any of the dimensions of the EQ. 5D-5L, with impaired ability to perform activities of daily life (35%), reduced mobility (33%) and having more pain or discomfort (33%) being the most commonly reported changes. Forty-six participants (43%) reported a negative change in cognitive function compared to before the COVID-19 hospitalisation. Six-month mortality was 21%, and increased with increasing age.
Conclusions: More than half of the patients reported a negative change in HR-QoL 6 months following hospitalisation due to COVID-19, and one out of three experienced a persistently impaired mobility and ability to carry out activities of daily living. The results suggest awareness of long-term functional decline in older COVID-19 patients.
Keywords: COVID-19; Geriatric medicine; Health-related quality of life; Pandemic.