Poverty Linked to Higher Risk of COVID-19 Death

People in the poorest areas are more likely to die from COVID-19 than those from more affluent areas, new research shows.

The study published in the medical journal The Lancet Regional Health – Europe also found that patients from disadvantaged areas were more likely to suffer from a severe illness from the virus and had a higher chance of critical care admission, in what is the first nationwide study of its kind.

The research was carried out by the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and found that of the 735 patients with COVID-19 who were admitted to critical care units across Scotland between March and June 2020, around one-quarter of admissions were from the most deprived quintile compared with 13 percent from the least deprived quintile.

Death rates after 30 days were also significantly higher in patients from the most deprived places in Scotland compared with the least deprived, after accounting for other factors such as age and sex. Hospitals in the most deprived areas were also more likely to experience a higher demand for intensive care beds and to be operating over their normal capacity for longer.

Lead researcher Dr. Nazir Lone, senior clinical lecturer in critical care at the University of Edinburgh and honorary consultant in critical care at NHS Lothian, said there were a number of reasons behind the disparities. He said: "A number of factors could be driving this link between poverty and severe disease, including poor housing, increased use of public transport and financial pressures to continue working. The most deprived communities, and the hospitals that serve them, will need extra support as the pandemic continues."

Dr. Joanne McPeake, co-author of the study from the University of Glasgow, said socio-economic inequalities had to be tackled.

COVID and poverty
Those from poorer areas are more likely to suffer from a more severe illness from COVID-19. Getty

She said: "While we move through this pandemic, it is increasingly important to understand how this virus affects different groups in order for informed decisions to be taken on mitigating risks. This data will help inform how we support different communities in both the short and long-term, in order to adequately ensure that socioeconomic inequalities are not exacerbated further."

It comes as pressure grows on ministers in the U.K. to prevent a surge in COVID-19 cases over Christmas, with scientists, doctors and Conservative MPs calling for a rethink over plans to allow indoor household mixing over the festive period.

David Nabarro, of the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the price of such a relaxation "could well be very high". He told Times Radio: "Just ask yourself, is there any way in which you can perhaps not have the family get-togethers this year?"

It also comes after a leading public health expert said that pre-existing social inequalities had contributed to the U.K. recording the highest death rates from COVID-19 in Europe.

The Build Back Fairer report by Sir Michael Marmot, claims that families at the bottom of the social and economic scale who were already struggling before the pandemic, were now being hit even more, losing health, jobs, lives and educational opportunities.

The report also said that men and women living in overcrowded conditions in the most deprived areas of the country are the most likely to die from COVID-19.