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
Posted 04 Aug 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.03.20167122
Posted 04 Aug 2020
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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