In 2020, COVID was the leading cause of death for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, researchers report.

For a new study, the researchers looked at 2020 death certificate data to examine death patterns for people with or without an intellectual and developmental disability (IDD).

They found that for those without an IDD, COVID was the third leading cause of death, following heart disease and cancer. But for those with IDD, COVID was the number one cause of death.

IDD are conditions characterized by life-long impairments in mobility, language, learning, self-care, and independent living. Examples include Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities.

The study confirms earlier predictions that COVID-19 would be deadlier among people with IDD, says Scott Landes, associate professor at Syracuse University and lead author of the paper in Disability and Health Journal.

“Even when we adjusted for age, sex, and racial-ethnic minority status, we found that COVID-19 was far deadlier for those with IDD than those without,” says Landes. “Furthermore, people with IDD were dying at much younger ages.”

To understand why the COVID-19 burden is greater for people with IDD, the researchers feel that more attention needs to be given to comorbidities as well as living arrangements.

“People with IDD are living in congregate settings at a higher percentage than those without an IDD,” says Landes. “Group living situations, especially with close-contact personal care support, is associated with the spread of COVID-19. For the estimated 13% to 20% of adults with IDD living in these settings, the risk cannot be overstated.”

Read the full article about COVID-19 deaths by Ellen James-Mbuqe at Futurity.