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Deaths involving COVID-19 by disability status: a retrospective analysis of 29 million adults during the first two waves of the Coronavirus pandemic in England

By Matthew L Bosworth, Daniel Ayoubkhani, Vahe Nafilyan, Josephine Foubert, Myer Glickman, Calum Davey, Hannah Kuper

Posted 13 Jun 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.06.10.21258693

Objectives: To assess the association between self-reported disability and deaths involving COVID-19 among adults in England. Design: Cohort study of >29 million adults using data from the Office for National Statistics Public Health Data Asset. Setting: People living in private households or communal establishments (including care homes) in England. Participants: 29,293,845 adults (47% male) aged 30-100 years (mean age = 56) present at the 2011 Census who were alive on 24 January 2020. The main exposure was self-reported disability from the 2011 Census. Main outcome measures: Death involving COVID-19, occurring between 24 January 2020 and 28 February 2021. We estimated the age-standardised mortality rate per 100,000 person-years at-risk, stratified by sex, disability status, and wave of the pandemic. We calculated hazard ratios (HRs) for disabled people compared with non-disabled people, adjusted for geographical factors, socio-demographic characteristics, and pre-pandemic health conditions. Results: Disabled people made up 17% of the study population, including 7% who were 'more-disabled' and 10% 'less-disabled'. From 24 January 2020 to 28 February 2021, 105,213 people died from causes involving COVID-19 in England, 58% of whom were disabled. Age-adjusted analyses showed that, compared to non-disabled people, mortality involving COVID-19 was higher among both more-disabled people (HR=3.05, 95% CI: 2.98 to 3.11 in males; 3.48, 3.41 to 3.56 in females) and less-disabled people (HR=1.88, 95% CI: 1.84 to 1.92 in males; 2.03, 1.98 to 2.08 in females). Among people aged 30-69, HRs reached 8.47 (8.01 to 8.95) among more-disabled females and 5.42 (5.18 to 5.68) for more-disabled males. Sequential adjustment for residence type, geography, socio-demographics, and health conditions partly explained the associations, indicating that a combination of these factors contributed towards the increased risk. Conclusion: Disabled people in England had markedly increased risk of mortality involving COVID-19 compared to non-disabled people and should be prioritised within the pandemic response.

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