One third of young adults are at risk of severe COVID-19, and this vulnerability may be linked to smoking, according to new research.
A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health on Monday found that 32% of young adults — about one in three — were medically susceptible to extreme COVID-19, reports CNN.
However, researchers found that when individuals who smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes were not taken into account, the percentage of those vulnerable reduced to 16%, or by half.
"The difference between estimates is driven largely by the sizeable portion of young adults who reported that they engaged in past 30-day smoking (1 in 10) and past 30-day e-cigarette use (1 in 14)," the study said. "By contrast, relatively fewer young adults reported medical conditions identified by the CDC as conferring severe illness risk."
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, analyzed over 8,000 individuals between the ages of 18 to 25 who took part in a National Health Interview Survey that assessed medical vulnerability to severe COVID-19 as it related to risk indicators including health conditions and smoking habits.
Researchers found that, of those who were analyzed, young adult males were at higher risk, even as more women reported having asthma and immune conditions.
Among nonsmokers, women exhibited higher risk for severe COVID-19.
"Recent evidence indicates that smoking is associated with a higher likelihood of COVID-19 progression, including increased illness severity, ICU admission or death," said Sally Adams, lead author of the study and a specialist at University of California, San Francisco's National Adolescent and Young Adult Health Information Center, in a press release.
Adams added: "Smoking may have significant effects in young adults, who typically have low rates for most chronic diseases."
The research also deduced that in the age group surveyed, white young adults were more susceptible.
The research was limited in certain ways, including the lack of information about coronavirus in the 18-to-25 population, and a chance that it could underestimate the vulnerability rates for certain ethnic or racial subgroups of young adults due to the data source.
"Our finding of lower medical vulnerability of racial/ethnic minorities compared with the white subgroup, despite controlling for income and insurance status, was unexpected," the study said. "It is also inconsistent with research showing higher rates of Covid-19 morbidity and mortality and other chronic illnesses among racial/ethnic minorities, specific to one age group."