Health Stories and Interviews

‘Underlying health condition’ – Do you think its appropriate to use so heavily during the pandemic?

Using the term 'underlying health condition' as a reason for the general public not to worry, is insensitive to those of us who have good reason to worry.

I recently helped Sophie Gallagher of The Independent newspaper with her piece on the risk of Coronavirus on those with chronic health conditions. I even managed to get my quote in the title!

Check it out here:

What are your thoughts on the pandemic?

Do you think those of us with compromised immune systems get forgotten?

How do you feel about the rhetoric coming out in the media and from the Govenment? In particular the use of the term ‘underlying health condition’. As if those who tragically lost their lives were already weak or dispensable.

It’s not just the elderly, its those with asthma, undergoing cancer treatment, respiratory problems, supressed immune systems and other autoimmune conditions.

Personally, I don’t think we should be bundled in with some poor soul at the end of life. Just because somebody has a chronic condition, it doesn’t make it any more acceptable that they lose their life from the flu.

Is ‘underlying health condition’ really the cause of death as it’s almost exclusively being used during this outbreak? Or is it just a way of reassuring the general public?

Using the term ‘underlying health condition’ as a reason for the general public not to worry, is insensitive to those of us who have good reason to worry.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.


  1. Those are the ones who are dying. At 60 or 70 they are not at the end of life, I agree those with a compromised immune system are also at high risk. I have a little friend with cystic fibrosis. She certainly is a risk. Those of us with an autoimmune system are at risk. But I don’t think now is the time to be irritated at being ignored. If we were ill, we would get all the attention we would need..

    1. Thank you for your thoughts.

      Not everyone will be able to be treated though. The issue comes when this really hits, the health services are overrun and those really difficult decisions have to be made.

      If the same mindset of ‘they had an underlying health condition though’ is adopted when all the beds are full and they are deciding to treat the person in the car accident, the child with appendicitis, the healthy adult with the virus or the middle aged guy with autoimmune complications who has pneumonia from the virus, I don’t fancy my chances in getting a golden ticket, you know?

      Unfortunately, reports suggest that those awful decisions are having to be made in parts of Italy right now, as they were in China which caused the high death rates in younger adults during the original outbreak, and at the end of the day, if all the beds and ventilators etc are in use, then they are in use. No health system has the capacity to handle something of this scale so decisions will have to be based on who had the best chance of surviving it.

      If every government is already using ‘underlying health condition’ as a reason/reassurance point for the general public over loss of life, then I fear its setting a precedence that will carry over when health systems fail.

  2. I have to say I don’t see it this way with regard to the reporting. They are simply stating facts as best they can given the very limited information available and no one really knowing how it’s spread, who’s really most at risk etc. There is a more serious concern about what people with a risky ‘underlying health condition’ are supposed to do, and a lack of advice, but again that’s predicated on lack of knowledge again I think.

    1. Certainly agree with your last point about what to do. My concern is how ‘underlying health condition’ is such a broad term and almost used as reassurance to the general public.

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