How ethnicity affects coronavirus death rates - and who is most at risk

Thursday, 7th May 2020, 4:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th May 2020, 4:39 pm
The difference in response to coronavirus is partly due to socio-economic disadvantage between ethnicities (Photo: Shutterstock)

Ethnicity could be a significant factor in the ability to fight off coronavirus, a new study suggests.

Black men and women are four times more likely to die from a coronavirus-related illness than those of white ethnicity, according to a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

What are BAME groups?

BAME groups are people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.

What evidence shows there are more deaths among BAME people?

Of those who contract coronavirus, black males in England and Wales are 4.2 times more likely to die, while black women are 4.3 times more likely to die compared to those of white ethnicity. This is after age is taken into account.

Additionally, people of Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian and mixed ethnicities were also found to have an increased risk of death from coronavirus, compared with those of white ethnicity.

Analysis from the ONS assessed how coronavirus affected various ethnic groups over the period from 2 March to 10 April, registered by 17 April.

The ONS linked people’s ethnicity to the 2011 Census, which includes self-reported ethnicity, as such information is not recorded on death certificates.

What other factors were taken into account in the study?

Other factors, including health and disability, were also taken into account in the ONS analysis.

Results when these factors were considered found that black men and women were 1.9 times more likely to die of coronavirus than a person of white ethnicity.

Bangladeshi and Pakistani males were found to be 1.8 times more likely to suffer a coronavirus-related death, while Bangladeshi and Pakistani females were 1.6 times more likely than white people, when these other factors were accounted for.

Mortality rates were found to be higher for all ethnic minority groups, except for Chinese women.

A total of 83.8 per cent of coronavirus-related deaths in this period occurred in people of white ethnicity, with black people making up the largest minority ethnic group, accounting for six per cent of the overall deaths recorded in this date range.

Findings from the ONS are similar to NHS England data which, when ethnicity could be established, found that 82.7 per cent of deaths were in white people, and 5.7 per cent in black people.

Why is ethnicity a factor?

Analysis from the ONS suggests that the difference in response to coronavirus is partly due to socio-economic disadvantage between ethnicities and the different circumstances in which members of such groups are known to live, although some of the reasons remain unexplained.

The ONS said: "Geographic and socio-economic factors were accounting for over half of the difference in risk between males and females of black and white ethnicity.

"However, these factors do not explain all of the difference, suggesting that other causes are still to be identified."