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Ethnic minority groups in England and Wales - factors affecting the size and timing of elevated COVID-19 mortality: a retrospective cohort study linking Census and death records

By Daniel Ayoubkhani, Vahe Nafilyan, Chris White, Peter Goldblatt, Charlotte Gaughan, Louisa Blackwell, Nicky Rogers, Amitava Banerjee, Kamlesh Khunti, Myer Glickman, Ben Humberstone, Ian Diamond

Posted 04 Aug 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.03.20167122

Objectives: To estimate population-level associations between ethnicity and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) mortality, and to investigate how ethnicity-specific mortality risk evolved over the course of the pandemic. Design: Retrospective cohort study using linked administrative data. Setting: England and Wales, deaths occurring 2 March to 15 May 2020. Participants: Respondents to the 2011 Census of England and Wales aged [≤]100 years and enumerated in private households, linked to death registrations and adjusted to account for emigration before the outcome period, who were alive on 1 March 2020 (n=47,872,412). Main outcome measure: Death related to COVID-19, registered by 29 May 2020. Statistical methods: We estimated hazard ratios (HRs) for ethnic minority groups compared with the White population using Cox regression models, controlling for geographical, demographic, socio-economic, occupational, and self-reported health factors. HRs were estimated on the full outcome period and separately for pre- and post-lockdown periods in the UK. Results: In the age-adjusted models, people from all ethnic minority groups were at elevated risk of COVID-19 mortality; the HRs for Black males and females were 3.13 [95% confidence interval: 2.93 to 3.34] and 2.40 [2.20 to 2.61] respectively. However, in the fully adjusted model for females, the HRs were close to unity for all ethnic groups except Black (1.29 [1.18 to 1.42]). For males, COVID-19 mortality risk remained elevated for the Black (1.76 [1.63 to 1.90]), Bangladeshi/Pakistani (1.35 [1.21 to 1.49]) and Indian (1.30 [1.19 to 1.43]) groups. The HRs decreased after lockdown for all ethnic groups, particularly Black and Bangladeshi/Pakistani females. Conclusions: Differences in COVID-19 mortality between ethnic groups were largely attenuated by geographical and socio-economic factors, although some residual differences remained. Lockdown was associated with reductions in excess mortality risk in ethnic minority populations, which has major implications for a second wave of infection or local spikes. Further research is needed to understand the causal mechanisms underpinning observed differences in COVID-19 mortality between ethnic groups.

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