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Gaceta Sanitaria

Print version ISSN 0213-9111

Gac Sanit vol.35 n.6 Barcelona Nov./Dec. 2021  Epub Apr 04, 2022 

Cartas al Director

Sociodemographic aspects of the older population in front of COVID-19 pandemic in a developing country: the case of Peru

Aspectos sociodemográficos de la población adulta mayor frente a la pandemia de la COVID-19 en un país en vías de desarrollo: el caso de Perú

Juan-Diego Mendoza-Saldaña*  , J Enrique Viton-Rubio1 

1School of Medicine Alberto Hurtado, Peruvian University Cayetano Heredia, Lima, Peru

To the editor:

On August 2020, National Institute of Statistics and Information updated population data (32,625,948 citizens)1 in which Peru became the second country with the highest mortality rate from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) around the world with 91.5 deaths per 100,000 people and a case fatality rate (CFR) of 4.32%.2 It is known public health system deficiencies could contribute to high mortality rates but sociodemographic features of individuals over 60 years old (older adult) are also matter factors which may explain the impact of the disease.

First of all, older adults are a risk group for severe COVID-19 and represent 12.7% of the national population1. In fact, almost 70% of COVID-19 deaths have been of this group age in Peru. We did not have access to the quantity data of stratified age groups but present CFRs by age and sex in Table 1. Our findings determined that males between 90-99 years was the most affected age group (CFR = 39.35%). In accordance with the current evidence,3,4 we corroborated older adults and men were the most affected groups.

On the other hand, 42% and 29.5% of nuclear and extended families had at least one older adult respectively; and 19.6% were one-older adult households1, so they might be exposed to potential cases. In order to contain COVID-19, Peruvian government has implemented several strategies and diffuse mainly precautionary measures through the media. Nevertheless, 66.3% and 61.1% of households with at least one older adult do not have internet service and cable television, respectively and almost 17 out of every 100 older adults are illiterate at the national level1. These conditions may make it difficult the access to preventive information.

Staying at home has also been recommended but this is unlikely because 14.9% of older adults are in poverty, more than half who work (53.5%) are independent and 63% does not have any retirement system3. Furthermore, 63% of the national population, with at least one older adult, do not have a refrigerator.1 These characteristics influence this group in order to go out street or to work in informal jobs, exposing themselves to contagion risk and possible adverse outcomes.

Finally, another recommendation to avoid COVID-19 is frequent hand washing. Indeed, it has been recognized as the most efficient form of prevention among Peruvian general population (98.2%).5 Although, 10% of households, with at least one older adult, still do not have a public water supply network.1

COVID-19 pandemic affected Peru in a vulnerability context for the older population. This letter suggests sociodemographic components, including age, sex, type of household, the situation of internet service and cable television, illiteracy, economic situation, job category, the state of retirement system, the possession of refrigerator and the condition of water service, are potential key factors in shaping the pattern of COVID-19 deaths across the country. It is necessary to find a suitable way to support and reach this risk population.

Table 1.  Cases, deaths by COVID-19 and case fatality rates (data updated September 9, 2020). 

Items 0-9 years 10-19 years 20-29 years 30-39 years 40-49 years 50-59 years 60-69 years 70-79 years 80-89 years 90-99 years Over 100 years
Cases Total 17731 31731 117138 154091 137889 113166 70551 36254 15264 2666 117
Women 8492 16514 56590 72760 62502 50358 31662 15754 6794 1365 74
Men 9239 14662 60548 81331 75387 62808 38889 20500 8470 1301 43
Deaths Total 78 62 241 834 2444 5495 8432 7399 4269 849 20
Women 35 26 87 245 613 1344 2495 2314 1446 337 8
Men 43 36 154 589 1831 4151 5937 5085 2823 512 12
Case fatality rates Total 0.44 0.20 0.21 0.54 1.77 4.86 11.95 20.41 27.97 31.85 17.09
Women 0.41 0.16 0.15 0.34 0.98 2.67 7.88 14.69 21.28 24.69 10.81
Men 0.47 0.25 0.25 0.72 2.43 6.61 15.27 24.80 33.33 39.35 27.91


1. Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática. Estado de la población peruana 2020. Lima; 2020. Available at: [ Links ]

2. Worldometer. COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 2020. Available at: [ Links ]

3. Sudharsanan N, Didzun O, Bärnighausen T, et al. The contribution of the age distribution of cases to COVID-19 case fatality across countries. Ann Intern Med. 2020:M20-973, doi: 10.7326/M20-2973. Online ahead of print. [ Links ]

4. Alkhouli M, Nanjundappa A, Annie F, et al. Sex differences in case fatality rate of COVID-19: insights from a multinational registry. Mayo Clin Proc. 2020;95:1613-20. [ Links ]

5. Zegarra-Valdivia J, Vilca BNC, Guerrero RJA. Knowledge, perception and attitudes in regard to COVID-19 pandemic in Peruvian population. Psyarxiv. 2020. Available at: [ Links ]

Availability of dataThe data of COVID-19 cases and deaths used in this letter are freely available online in Spanish at National Open Data Platform:


* Corresponding author: (J.-D. Mendoza-Saldaña).

Authorship contributions

J.D. Mendoza-Saldaña and J.E. Viton-Rubio contributed to conceptualization, data curation, formal analysis, writing-original draft, writing-review and editing. Authors guarantee the precision, transparency and honesty of the data and information contained in the letter; no relevant information has been omitted; and that all discrepancies between authors have been adequately resolved.

Conflicts of interest


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