Distinctive trajectories of the COVID-19 epidemic by age and gender: A retrospective modeling of the epidemic in South Korea


Objectives: Elderly people had suffered a disproportionate burden of COVID-19. We hypothesized that males and females in different age groups might have different epidemic trajectories. Methods: Using publicly available data from South Korea, daily new COVID-19 cases were assessed using generalized additive models, assuming Poisson and negative binomial distributions. Epidemic dynamics by age and gender groups were explored using interactions between smoothed time terms and age and gender. Results: A negative binomial distribution fitted the daily case counts best. The relationship between the dynamic patterns of daily new cases and age groups was statistically significant (p < 0.001), but this was not the case with gender groups. People aged 20–39 years led the epidemic processes in South Korean society with two peaks — one major peak around March 1 and a smaller peak around April 7, 2020. The epidemic process among people aged 60 or above trailed behind that of the younger age group, and with smaller magnitude. After March 15, there was a consistent decline of daily new cases among elderly people, despite large fluctuations in case counts among young adults. Conclusions: Although young people drove the COVID-19 epidemic throughout society, with multiple rebounds, elderly people could still be protected from infection after the peak of the epidemic.

Publication Title

International Journal of Infectious Diseases