Health

Ethnic inequalities in COVID-19 mortality: a consequence of persistent racism

Written by:
James Nazroo and Laia Bécares
Published:
2021
Read time:
10 minutes
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Key points:

  • Ethnic minority people experience a much higher risk of COVID-19-related death, a stark inequality that impacts on all ethnic minority groups, including white minority groups such as Gypsies and Irish Travellers.
  • Local authorities with higher proportions of ethnic minority residents are likely to have higher numbers of COVID-19-related deaths.
  • These inequalities reflect increased risk of exposure to the virus because of where people live, the type of accommodation they live in, household size, the types of jobs they do and the means of transport they use to get to work.
  • Ethnic inequalities in relation to COVID-19 mirror longstanding ethnic inequalities in health. A large body of evidence has shown that these inequalities are driven by social and economic inequalities, many of which are the result of racial discrimination.
  • Ethnic minorities are also at increased risk of complications and mortality post COVID-19 infection; greater risk of serious illness with COVID-19 is more likely the result of pre-existing social and economic inequalities manifesting in the form of particular chronic illnesses. There is no evidence for genetic or genetically related biological factors underlying this increased risk, including vitamin D deficiency.
  • Unless racism is understood as a key driver of the inequalities which increase the chances of exposure to and mortality from COVID-19, government and public sector policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic risk further increasing ethnic inequalities in the UK.
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