Three Studies Give Insight Into BAME COVID-19 Risks

Tim Locke

May 07, 2020

Three studies published today give new insights into COVID-19 ethnicity risks.

Earlier this week an analysis was launched by Public Health England into why the severity of COVID-19 varies between people.

The Office for National Statistics released data on ethnicity and COVID-19 mortality for England and Wales on deaths in March and early April.

Ethnicity is not recorded on death certificates so statisticians cross-referenced cases with the 2011 census.

ONS Odds Ratios

After accounting for age alone the odds ratios for death compared to white ethnicity were:

  • Black male 4.2

  • Black female 4.28

  • Bangladeshi/Pakistani male 3.55

  • Bangladeshi/Pakistani female 3.35

  • Indian male 2.67

  • Indian female 2.39

  • Chinese male 1.93

  • Chinese female 1.15

  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups male 1.81

  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups female 1.61

After accounting for age and other socio-demographic characteristics and measures of self-reported health and disability at the 2011 census the odds ratios for death compared to white ethnicity were:

  • Black male 1.93

  • Black female 1.89

  • Bangladeshi/Pakistani male 1.81

  • Bangladeshi/Pakistani female 1.61

  • Indian male 1.32

  • Indian female 1.43

  • Chinese male 1.18

  • Chinese female 0.75

  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups male 1.03

  • Mixed/Multiple ethnic groups female 1.03

ONS said: "These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in COVID-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained."

Oxford and LSHTM Study

In another study, University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), researchers analysed pseudonymised health data of more than 17.4 million UK adults.

Again, compared to white people, people of Asian and Black ethnic origin had a higher risk of COVID-19 death, according to the preprint.

The researchers said theories over higher prevalence of medical problems or deprivation only accounts for a small part of the excess risk. Consequently, further work must be done to fully understand why BAME people are at such increased risk of death.

Study co-lead Professor Liam Smeeth said in a news release: "It is very concerning to see that the higher risks faced by people from BME backgrounds are not attributable to identifiable underlying health conditions."

UCL Study

BAME groups are around 2-3 times more likely to die with COVID-19, according to a separate UCL analysis of NHS data from hospitals in England in March and April published in Wellcome Open Research .

Adjusting for age and region, the risk of death from COVID-19 for:

  • Black African groups was 3.24 times higher than the general population

  • Pakistani was 3.29 times higher

  • Bangladeshi was 2.41 times higher

  • Black Caribbean was 2.21 times higher

  • Indian was 1.7 times higher.

Lead author, Dr Rob Aldridge, said in a news release: "Our findings support an urgent need to take action to reduce the risk of death from COVID-19 for BAME groups."

Earlier this week an analysis was launched by Public Health England into why the severity of COVID-19 varies between people.

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