King's College London

Research portal

Probable delirium is a presenting symptom of COVID-19 in frail, older adults: a cohort study of 322 hospitalised and 535 community-based older adults

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
JournalAge and Ageing
Early online date28 Sep 2020
Accepted/In press12 Sep 2020
E-pub ahead of print28 Sep 2020

King's Authors


Frailty, increased vulnerability to physiological stressors, is associated with adverse outcomes. COVID-19 exhibits a more severe disease course in older, co-morbid adults. Awareness of atypical presentations is critical to facilitate early identification.

To assess how frailty affects presenting COVID-19 symptoms in older adults.

Observational cohort study of hospitalised older patients and self-report data for community-based older adults.

Admissions to St Thomas’ Hospital, London with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. Community-based data for older adults using the COVID Symptom Study mobile application.

Hospital cohort: patients aged 65 and over (n = 322); unscheduled hospital admission between March 1st, 2020-May 5th, 2020; COVID-19 confirmed by RT-PCR of nasopharyngeal swab. Community-based cohort: participants aged 65 and over enrolled in the COVID Symptom Study (n = 535); reported test-positive for COVID-19 from March 24th (application launch)-May 8th, 2020.

Multivariable logistic regression analysis performed on age-matched samples from hospital and community-based cohorts to ascertain association of frailty with symptoms of confirmed COVID-19.

Hospital cohort: significantly higher prevalence of probable delirium in the frail sample, with no difference in fever or cough. Community-based cohort: significantly higher prevalence of possible delirium in frailer, older adults, and fatigue and shortness of breath.

This is the first study demonstrating higher prevalence of probable delirium as a COVID-19 symptom in older adults with frailty compared to other older adults. This emphasises need for systematic frailty assessment and screening for delirium in acutely ill older patients in hospital and community settings. Clinicians should suspect COVID-19 in frail adults with delirium.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454