Who is actually at the greatest risk from coronavirus?

Information is the best armor against panic.

Image source: China News Service/Getty
  • For most people, getting the coronavirus is not life-threatening.
  • Those most at risk are the elderly with pre-existing conditions.
  • Things may change as the virus replicates, but here's what you need to know about the risks right now.

As we anxiously watch coronavirus, COVID-19, touch our shores and begin what seems an inexorable march across the United States — as it has been doing across the globe — many of us are naturally wondering, "Just how scared should I be?"

Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer. First of all, the closest you can get is a statement of your odds of dying from COVID-19. Second, viruses mutate, so the best information only reflects what's been seen prior to now. Most of what we know so far comes from the virus' impact in China, where it began.

As of the first week of March 2020, the odds of dying from COVID-19 on average are 2.3%, though that number varies depending on your age.

Your odds of contracting the disease, however, are much higher and dependent on where you are and how much interpersonal contact you have. For the vast majority of people, COVID-19 is not life-threatening. According to one first-hand account published by The Washington Post, having the virus may be an easily tolerated experience. Still, it's best to avoid it altogether if you can.

As of this moment, here are the groups with the greatest risk of dying from COVID-19.

The elderly ill

woman in a hospital bed with medical staffCHINA WUHAN COVID-19 HOSPITAL

Image source: Barcroft Media/Contributor

Based on China's experience with the coronavirus, your chances of acquiring a fatal case of COVID-19 have a lot to do with your age:

  • Age | Death Rate
  • 80+ | 14.8%
  • 70-79 | 8.0%
  • 60-69 | 3.6%
  • 50-59 | 1.3%
  • 40-49 | 0.4%
  • 30-39 | 0.2%
  • 20-29 | 0.2%
  • 10-19 | 0.2%
  • 0-9 | no fatalities

Older people with pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes are at even higher risk. A study of deaths in Wuhan, China where the disease originated breaks down more interested facts:

Most of the death cases were male (65.9%). More than half of dead patients were older than 60 years (80.5%) and the median age was 72.5 years. The bulk of death cases had comorbidity (76.8%), including hypertension (56.1%), heart disease (20.7%), diabetes (18.3%), cerebrovascular disease (12.2%), and cancer (7.3%).

Gender

Chinese couple wearing face masks at a wedding ceremonyWedding Ceremony In Leishenshan Hospital

Image source: China News Service/Getty

As noted above, COVID-19 is more fatal for men than women, based on a study of Chinese statistics. This may be influenced by the greater incidence of smoking — which may also increase one's susceptibility to COVDI-19 — among Chinese men.

That being said, special precaution is also good idea for women who are or are planning to be pregnant. The CDC says:

We do not have information on adverse pregnancy outcomes in pregnant women with COVID-19. Pregnancy loss, including miscarriage and stillbirth, has been observed in cases of infection with other related coronaviruses SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV during pregnancy. High fevers during the first trimester of pregnancy can increase the risk of certain birth defects.

What to watch out for and what to do

Woman praying on the floor while wearing a face maskConcerns COVID-19 Cases Are Going Unreported In Southeast Asia

As you wait for your local store to re-stock their supply of hand sanitizer, you'll want to keep an eye out for possible COVID-19 symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Though COVID-19 tests are still not widely available, if you think you could be sick, contact your physician immediately.

If you have coronavirus, follow the CDC's guidelines:

  • Stay at home except to get medical care.
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
  • Wear a face mask.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid sharing personal household items.
  • Clean all "high-touch" surfaces every day.
  • Monitor your symptoms.

When the virus passes, the CDC recommends extending the period of isolation just to be safe.

Patients with confirmed COVID-19 should remain under home isolation precautions until the risk of secondary transmission to others is thought to be low. The decision to discontinue home isolation precautions should be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.

Wuhan coronavirus confirmed to be transmissible between humans

The new strain of coronavirus that has spread across Asia is causing concern ahead of China's Lunar New Year.

(Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
  • A new strain of the coronavirus — similar to SARS — is spreading across China and to nearby countries, including the U.S..
  • Although it's relatively early on, the virus appears to be fairly infectious and capable of human-to-human transmission, a serious concern given the many travelers expected to visit China for the upcoming Lunar New Year.
  • The World Health Organization intends to convene an emergency committee in the near future to determine whether the outbreak should be considered a public health emergency of international concern.
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Singapore overtakes U.S. as world's most competitive economy

But the U.S. remains an "innovation powerhouse," according to the annual report from the World Economic Forum.

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  • Singapore topped the World Economic Forum's annual list due, in part, to its strong infrastructure, labor markets and health markers.
  • The U.S. ranked in second place, but was named the world's most competitive large economy.
  • The report also found that some Asian nations seem to be benefitting from the U.S.-China trade war.
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What does self-actualization mean in different cultures?

Critics complain that Maslow's hierarchy of needs focuses too much on the West. Yet other cultures often have similar ideas about personal development.

Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash
  • When Abraham Maslow developed his hierarchy of needs, he focused entirely on students, peers, and historical figures, all of whom were from the West.
  • This led many critics to argue that his model of human development and the concept of self-actualization were not universal; they merely reflected Western ideas about development and self-improvement.
  • Other cultures ranging from Blackfoot Native Americans to the Chinese have similar ideas that run parallel to self-actualization. What are they, and how do they differ?

Self-actualization has been a pop psychology touchstone ever since Abraham Maslow coined the term in 1943. Since then, a panoply of articles, books, podcasts, motivational posters, and even business models have popped up explaining the best way forward for countless individuals looking to grow and become the best version of themselves they can possibly be.

The concept of self-actualization and the hierarchy of needs, however, has taken on a life of its own outside the ivory tower of academia. While the concept that an individual's highest drive is to become all that they can possibly be has become accepted as fact, academics still debate whether the hierarchy of needs is the best model of human development. One criticism, in particular, is that self-actualization is a thoroughly Western concept. Maslow developed it by studying the characteristics of his peers and of famous historical figures, such as Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein.

Why does this matter? The model is meant to be a model of human development, but the research it was developed from was mostly based on one sliver of human experience. Other cultures and philosophies have similar, but slightly varied ways of describing higher states of being. What's the difference between self-actualization and these other ideals?

Taoism and Buddhism

Japanese Zen Buddhist

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

One of the biggest commonalities between these Eastern philosophies and self-actualization is that they all assume there is a drive toward a higher state of being, whether that's Enlightenment, oneness with the Tao, or self-actualization. In Taoism, the goal is to achieve unity with the unknowable underlying principle of the universe (i.e., the tao, or "the way"), while in Zen Buddhism, the goal is to achieve Enlightenment by understanding the emptiness of existence.

Already, we can see some significant differences between self-actualization and these philosophies. There's no religious or even spiritual component in the hierarchy of needs. It doesn't purport to explain life and death or the nature of the universe, just the nature of human motivation. But if you strip away some of the more spiritual elements of these systems, the end goals are pretty similar.

The sage in Taoism, the enlightened individual in Zen Buddhism, and the self-actualized individual in Maslow's hierarchy of needs all are concerned for the well-being of others, are closer to nature, accept reality as it is, and are extremely autonomous. This last bit, the autonomy and independence, is probably why many Westerners are so familiar with Taoism, Zen Buddhism, and the like. Westerners like the idea of independent practice, of self-work — of self-actualization.

But there are many other ideas about what makes for a higher state of being that explicitly reject the idea that you can become better in a vacuum.

Confucianism

Confucius

Image source: Prisma / UIG / Getty Images

Like the hierarchy of needs, there is also an ideal, higher state to be pursued in Confucianism; specifically, sagehood. The Confucian sage is a benevolent, wise individual that embodies tian, which can be thought of as heaven or the underlying laws of the universe. Confucius thought that very few people reached this state of being, as Maslow did in regard to self-actualization. A major difference, however, is that Confucius focused significantly more on the relationship between the sage or developing individual and the society around them. For Maslow's self-actualized individual, their relationship with society is pretty much up to them. A self-actualized individual might care very much about the world around them, or they could be a hermit; it would depend on their individual nature.

In Confucianism, addressing societal issues is how one enables others to become sages. As a result, Confucianism prescribes a strict social code for individuals to follow in order to enable the right kind of society, summed up in Confucius's quote: "There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son." What's more, by being a father, minister, or whichever role you're meant to be, Confucianism asserts that you can become more virtuous and develop further. Perhaps more than the other philosophies listed here, Confucianism is much more prescriptive, where the hierarchy of needs is much more descriptive.

Blackfoot Native Americans

Chief Little Dog, a Blackfoot Native American, on his horse n front of a tipi at Glacier Park Lodge.

Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

One of the more interesting parallels to Maslow's hierarchy of needs is the philosophy of the Blackfoot Native Americans. In fact, Maslow is believed to have used Blackfoot beliefs to develop his theory after a visit to the Blackfoot Nation in Alberta, Canada, in 1938.

The Blackfoot perspective on self-actualization was quite different than Maslow's, however.

For the Blackfoot, self-actualization was actually at the base of the pyramid. As with other philosophies focused on human development and higher states of being, the Blackfoot model extends the concept outside of the self and focuses on the impact of self-development on the community. Above self-actualization comes community actualization, above which comes cultural perpetuity, or the idea that the knowledge and wisdom of a community can live on in perpetuity, so long as the individual and the community become actualized.

Aside from its emphasis on community rather than the individual, this model is interesting because it also focuses on time — if a community achieves cultural perpetuity, then it lasts forever. It also explicitly discusses something that Maslow would later add to his hierarchy: the idea of self-transcendence. Maslow later believed that all self-actualized individuals would feel the need to pursue goals outside of the self, a feature that was already present in the Blackfoot model.

None of this is to say that Maslow's model of human development is wrong or right — rather, it's important to acknowledge how much of Maslow's thinking was a product of his culture. Psychology, in particular, is a science that's easily influenced by culture — just as an example, consider the fact that nearly all psychological studies are conducted on undergraduate college students. It's immediately apparent that ascertaining universal truths from a sample of undergraduate college students and Western historical figures is a dubious proposition.

When it comes to pursuing a better version of the self, it pays to keep in mind that there are many perspectives on what that better version might be.

Why, in India, female farmers are paying to become 'womb-less'

In one Indian farming district, many women are paying for expensive and medically unnecessary hysterectomies in order to be more productive at work.

Image source: IndiaPictures / Universal Images Group via Getty Images
  • In the Beed District of the Indian state Maharashtra, a disturbing number of women are getting their wombs removed.
  • The majority of these women work as sugar-cane cutters, employed by and in debt to contractors.
  • In order to pay back their debt and avoid fines, many women opt to pay for a hysterectomy rather than miss work due to their periods.
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