People who were never hospitalized report lingering aftereffects.


Article Content

Middle-aged and older adults who experienced mild or moderate COVID-19 but were not hospitalized still showed losses in mobility and physical function in the months following their illness, according to a recent study in the January JAMA Network Open. These sequelae were previously identified in hospitalized patients with more severe COVID-19; the new study is the first to find these outcomes in nonhospitalized patients.

Figure. Photo  Shutt... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Photo (C) Shutterstock.

Data came from more than 24,000 men and women 45 years of age or older enrolled in the ongoing Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Participants answered several questionnaires beginning in April 2020 and completed an exit questionnaire between September and December 2020. Changes in mobility and physical function from spring to later in the year were compared for individuals who had confirmed, probable, or suspected COVID-19 and those who hadn't had COVID-19.


The questionnaire asked about changes in the ability to move around the home, engage in housework, and engage in physical activity. It also asked about three specific tasks: standing up after sitting in a chair, walking up and down a flight of stairs without assistance, and walking two to three blocks.


By the end of the study period, 25% of the participants reported worsening ability to engage in physical activity. Participants who had probable or confirmed COVID-19 were nearly twice as likely as those without COVID to report worsening ability to engage in household and physical activities. Those with suspected COVID-19 were twofold as likely to report worsening ability to move around the house, engage in housework, and participate in physical activity. The ability to perform the specific tasks measured was also more difficult for those with COVID-19 than those without.


Mobility is an important component of healthy aging. Because so many people have recovered from mild or moderate COVID-19 in community settings, the prevalence of these deficits among middle-aged and older adults may be great. The researchers called for further study of the long-term effects of even mild cases of COVID-19, and for community-based approaches to help people regain function and mobility.


In the meantime, prevention measures continue to be important for older adults. Nurses should counsel patients about the benefits of masking and vaccination even if a COVID-19 variant is said to produce milder symptoms.-Joan Zolot, PA