Ethnic differences in risk of severe Covid-19:To what extent are they driven by exposure?

Edge, Rhiannon and van der Plaat, Diana and Parsons, Vaughan and Coggon, David and van Tongeren, Martie and Muiry, Rupert and cullinan, Paul and Madan, Ira (2021) Ethnic differences in risk of severe Covid-19:To what extent are they driven by exposure? Journal of Public Health. ISSN 1741-3842

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Abstract Background This study quantifies the risk of Covid-19 among ethnic groups of healthcare staff during the first pandemic wave in England. Methods We analysed data on 959 356 employees employed by 191 National Health Service trusts during 1 January 2019 to 31 July 2020, comparing rates of Covid-19 sickness absence in different ethnic groups. Results In comparison with White ethnic groups, the risk of short-duration Covid-19 sickness absence was modestly elevated in South Asian but not Black groups. However, all Black and ethnic minority groups were at higher risk of prolonged Covid-19 sickness absence. Odds ratios (ORs) relative to White ethnicity were more than doubled in South Asian groups (Indian OR 2.49, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.36–2.63; Pakistani OR 2.38, 2.15–2.64; Bangladeshi OR 2.38, 1.98–2.86), while that for Black African ethnicity was 1.82 (1.71–1.93). In nursing/midwifery staff, the association of ethnicity with prolonged Covid-19 sickness absence was strong; the odds of South Asian nurses/midwives having a prolonged episode of Covid-19 sickness absence were increased 3-fold (OR 3.05, 2.82–3.30). Conclusions Residual differences in risk of short term Covid-19 sickness absences among ethnic groups may reflect differences in non-occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2. Our results indicate ethnic differences in vulnerability to Covid-19, which may be only partly explained by medical comorbidities.

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Journal Article
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Journal of Public Health
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This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Public Health following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Rhiannon Edge, Diana A van der Plaat, Vaughan Parsons, David Coggon, Martie van Tongeren, Rupert Muiry, Paul Cullinan, Ira Madan, Ethnic differences in risk of severe Covid-19: To what extent are they driven by exposure?, Journal of Public Health, 2021;, fdab347, is available online at:
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05 Oct 2021 13:45
Last Modified:
06 Mar 2023 01:22