Pre-pandemic cognitive function and COVID-19 mortality: Prospective cohort study

George David Batty, Ian J. Deary, Catharine R. Gale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Poorer performance on standard tests of pre-morbid cognitive function is related to an elevated risk of death from lower respiratory tract infections but the link with coronavirus (COVID‑19) mortality is untested. Participants in UK Biobank, aged 40 to 69 years at study induction (2006-10), were administered a reaction time test, an indicator of information processing speed, and also had their verbal-numeric reasoning assessed. Between April 1st and September 23rd 2020 there were 388 registry-confirmed deaths (138 women) ascribed to COVID-19 in 494,932 individuals (269,602 women) with a reaction time test result, and 125 such deaths (38 women) in the subgroup of 180,198 people (97,794 women) with data on verbal-numeric reasoning. In analyses adjusted for age, sex, and ethnicity, a one standard deviation slower reaction time was related to a higher rate of death from COVID-19 (hazard ratio; 95 1.18; 1.09, 1.28), as was a one standard deviation disadvantage on the verbal-numeric reasoning test (1.32; 1.09, 1.59). While there was some attenuation in these relationships after adjustment for additional covariates which included socio-economic status and lifestyle factors, the two pre-pandemic indicators of cognitive function continued to be related to COVID-19 mortality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559–564
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Early online date24 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Epub
  • Open Access
  • UK Biobank


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