Aim: International health authorities suggest that individuals aged 65 years and above and people with underlying comorbidities such as hypertension, chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity are at increased risk of severe Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19); however, the prevalence of risk factors is unknown in many countries . Therefore, we aimed to describe the distribution of these risk factors across Europe . Subject and methods: Prevalence of risk factors for severe COVID-19 was identified based on interviews from 73,274 Europeans aged 50+ participating in the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) in 2017 . Burden of disease was estimated using population data from Eurostat .
Results: A total of 75.3% of the study population (corresponding to approx . 60 million European men and 71 million women) had at least one risk factor for severe COVID-19 , 45.9% (approx . 36 million men and 43 million women) had at least two factors, and 21.2% (approx . 17 million men and 20 million women) had at least three risk factors . The prevalence of underlying medical conditions ranged from 4.5% for cancer to 41.4% for hypertension, and the region-specific prevalence of having at least three risk factors ranged from 18.9% in Northern Europe to 24.6% in Eastern Europe .
Conclusions: Information about the prevalence of risk factors might help authorities to identify the most vulnerable subpopulations with multiple risk factors of severe COVID-19 and thus to decide appropriate strategies to mitigate the pandemic . Supplementary Information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s10389-021-01537-7.