Older Americans More Attentive To COVID-19 News Than Younger Adults

April 28, 2020 by Gaspard Le Dem
Surfers walk onto the sand to prepare to enter the water on April 28, 2020, as coranavirus pandemic restrictions are eased. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

The coronavirus crisis has dominated headlines in 2020, but research shows some Americans are paying more attention than others.

According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, nearly all U.S. adults — about 92% — say they’re keeping a close watch on COVID-19 news. 

But older generations are following more attentively, with more than two thirds of adults 65 and older reporting they follow news of the pandemic very closely, the survey found.

In contrast, only four in 10 adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are following as closely, and middle-aged Americans fall somewhere in between.

The trends have persisted over time. The Pew Research Center gathered data from thousands of Americans in two separate surveys conducted over the course of two weeks, from March 10 to 16 and March 20 to 26.

In that time, coronavirus cases in the U.S. grew exponentially, skyrocketing from just a few scattered cases in early March to more than 180,000 reported cases by the end of the month.

The increase in cases did not have much of an impact on those who were paying the least attention, survey data shows. While the overall percentage of adults paying close attention to the pandemic surged, younger adults remained the least attentive to COVID-19 news.

The overall number of people paying very close attention to news about the coronavirus outbreak increased from 51% to 57%. Yet for adults between 18 and 29 years of age, the numbers increased only marginally, from 40 to 42%.

The biggest change was among middle-aged adults, with a 10 point increase (44 to 54%) for people between 30 and 49, and a nine point increase (54 to 63%) for those between 50 and 64.

From the onset of the outbreak, research has shown that people 65 and older are more likely to die from the coronavirus. Early data from China –– where the crisis began –– showed that fatality rates for COVID-19 patients increased significantly with age.

People with pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, or liver disease are also at a greater risk of dying from COVID-19, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, younger people are in no way immune. Official counts from the CDC show that hundreds of Americans between the ages of 15 and 34 have died from the disease.

The medical community is still struggling to understand some aspects of the disease. Last week, the Washington Post reported that a growing number of people in their 30s and 40s have been dying from strokes after contracting the virus.

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