The association between chronic disease and serious COVID-19 outcomes and its influence on risk perception: survey study and database analysis

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Background: COVID-19, a viral respiratory disease first reported in December 2019, quickly became a threat to global public health. Further understanding of the epidemiology of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the risk perception of the community may better inform targeted interventions to reduce the impact and spread of COVID-19. Objective: In this study, we aimed to examine the association between chronic diseases and serious outcomes following COVID-19 infection, and to explore its influence on people's self-perception of risk for worse COVID-19 outcomes. Methods: This study draws data from two databases: (1) the nationwide database of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in Portugal, extracted on April 28, 2020 (n=20,293); and (2) the community-based COVID-19 Barometer survey, which contains data on health status, perceptions, and behaviors during the first wave of COVID-19 (n=171,087). We assessed the association between relevant chronic diseases (ie, respiratory, cardiovascular, and renal diseases; diabetes; and cancer) and death and intensive care unit (ICU) admission following COVID-19 infection. We identified determinants of self-perception of risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes using logistic regression models. Results: Respiratory, cardiovascular, and renal diseases were associated with mortality and ICU admission among patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 infection (odds ratio [OR] 1.48, 95% CI 1.11-1.98; OR 3.39, 95% CI 1.80-6.40; and OR 2.25, 95% CI 1.66-3.06, respectively). Diabetes and cancer were associated with serious outcomes only when considering the full sample of COVID-19-infected cases in the country (OR 1.30, 95% CI 1.03-1.64; and OR 1.40, 95% CI 1.03-1.89, respectively). Older age and male sex were both associated with mortality and ICU admission. The perception of risk for severe COVID-19 disease in the study population was 23.9% (n=40,890). This was markedly higher for older adults (n=5235, 46.4%), those with at least one chronic disease (n=17,647, 51.6%), or those in both of these categories (n=3212, 67.7%). All included diseases were associated with self-perceptions of high risk in this population. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate the association between some prevalent chronic diseases and increased risk of worse COVID-19 outcomes. It also brings forth a greater understanding of the community's risk perceptions of serious COVID-19 disease. Hence, this study may aid health authorities to better adapt measures to the real needs of the population and to identify vulnerable individuals requiring further education and awareness of preventive measures.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22794
JournalJMIR public health and surveillance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Association
  • Chronic disease
  • COVID-19
  • Morbidity
  • Outcome
  • Perception
  • Risk
  • Risk factors


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