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COVID-19: Mobility, physical functioning impaired in older patients with mild, moderate cases


Canadian researchers are reporting that COVID-19 may have more detrimental effects than previously thought.

The noteworthy finding is that patients with mild-to-moderate cases of the virus who were not hospitalized had worsening mobility and difficulties in physical functioning, according to first author Marla Beauchamp, PhD, from the School of Rehabilitation Science, faculty of Health Sciences, at the Labarge Centre for Mobility in Aging, and the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

This finding underscores the need to both determine the impact of the virus over the long term and to develop and implement effective interventions and management to address persistent deficits in mobility and functioning in this patient population, she and her colleagues emphasized in their report published in the JAMA Network Open.1

Cohort Study of COVID-19 effects

Beauchamp and her colleagues analyzed data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA) COVID-19 Study that began in April 2020 and data obtained before the pandemic from the first CLSA from 2015 to 2018. The patients completed exit questionnaires between September and December 2020. The participants were middle-aged and older individuals (> 50 years) who lived in Canadian communities. The main outcome measure was the change in mobility since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic at the exit interview. The data were analyzed from February 2021 to May 2021.

The analysis of this population-based cohort study, which included more than 24,000 people who were 65 years or older found that of the 2748 individuals who had confirmed, probable, or suspected COVID-19, 113 (94.2%) were not hospitalized.

“Individuals with confirmed or probable COVID-19 had higher odds of worsening mobility in terms of ability to engage in household activity (odds ratio [OR], 1.89; with a 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11-3.22), physical activity (OR, 1.91; 95% CI, 1.32-2.76), and standing up after sitting in a chair (OR, 2.33; 95% CI, 1.06-5.11) compared with adults without COVID-19 during the same pandemic time period,” the investigators reported.

Among the patients with suspected cases of COVID-19, the findings were similar (for example, household activity OR, 2.09; 95% CI, 1.82-2.41).

The investigators concluded, “This cohort study among older adults in Canada found that receiving a COVID-19 diagnosis was significantly associated with worse mobility and functioning outcomes even in the absence of hospitalization. These findings suggest that interventions may be needed for individuals with mild to moderate COVID-19 who do not require hospitalization.”


1. Beauchamp MK, Joshi D, McMillan J, et al. Assessment of functional mobility after COVID-19 in adults aged 50 years or older in the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. JAMA Netw Open 2022;5(1):e2146168. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.46168

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