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29 March 2022

Covid-19 death rates expose health inequalities

England’s most deprived areas had four to six times as many avoidable coronavirus deaths.

By Saywah Mahmood

Covid-19 mortality rates in the most deprived areas of England were four times higher for men and six times higher for women than in the least deprived areas, figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal.

For men in the most deprived areas in England, there were 95.1 avoidable deaths from Covid-19 per 100,000 people in 2020, compared with 21.9 in the least deprived areas. For women, there were 53.3 deaths per 100,000 people in the most deprived areas and 9.4 in the least.

Avoidable deaths means those that were preventable or treatable. There are several possible reasons why there was such disparity. One, as a House of Common Library briefing paper on poverty in the UK detailed, was that people in deprived areas were far more likely to work in jobs that could not be done remotely. This meant their exposure to the virus was far higher.

Research published in the British Medical Journal suggested another reason. It said: “People living in more socio-economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods and minority ethnic groups have higher rates of almost all of the known underlying clinical risk factors that increase the severity and mortality of Covid-19, including hypertension, diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, liver disease, renal disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and smoking.”

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