Sept. 9 (UPI) -- More than 20% of young adults hospitalized with COVID-19 between April 1 and June 30 required treatment in the intensive care unit, according to an analysis published Wednesday by JAMA Internal Medicine.
In addition, one in 10 required mechanical ventilation to maintain breathing and nearly 3% of of the young adults died, the data showed.
Although the findings suggest that younger adults, 18 to 34 years old, are at lower risk for serious illness after being infected with the new coronavirus than older adults, they also show that the health complications they experience can be "devastating," co-author Dr. Scott D. Solomon told UPI.
"The incidence of COVID-19 is rising fastest in the millennial population," said Solomon, who is the director of non-invasive cardiology at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
"While the overall risk is low, for those who require hospitalization, the risks are substantial -- indeed, the risk of death is twice that of a patient of that age having a heart attack," he said.
Since the start of the pandemic earlier this year, older adults and those with underlying health issues -- such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure -- generally have been considered at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In an analysis of 305 adults age 50 and older hospitalized with the disease, released in May, 39% required ICU admission and 30% needed mechanical ventilation, the agency said. Just over 17% of these older adults died.
For the analysis reported Wednesday, Solomon and his colleagues reviewed data on more than 780,000 adults discharged from more than 400 hospitals across the country between April 1 and June 30.
Among them, 3,222 were young adults age 18 to 34 who tested positive for COVID-19, and most -- 57% -- were male.
Nearly 60% of the COVID-19 patients included in the analysis were Black or Hispanic American, and 37% were obese, the data showed. In addition, 18% had diabetes and 16% had high blood pressure.
During hospitalization, 684 of these patients, or 21%, required intensive care, while 331, or 10%, needed mechanical ventilation. Overall, 88, or 2.7%, died.
Among these young adult patients, being morbidly obese -- or having a body mass index of 40 or above -- and having high blood pressure more than doubled the risk for death from COVID-19.
Those with diabetes were nearly twice as likely to die after getting infected, the researchers said.
"[Our findings] underscore the need for this age group to continue to be vigilant about doing all the things that mitigate risk, such as wearing masks and physical distancing," Solomon said.
"This is especially true given that many in this age range are returning to school this fall."