White Irish in England half as likely to die from Covid-19 than minorities

Research based on NHS data finds individuals in black, Asian, BAME groups more at risk

White Irish people in England are half as likely to die from Covid-19 than individuals in black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) groups, new research suggests.

The study by academics at University College London (UCL), which is based on NHS data, found the likelihood of death from Covid-19 to be significantly higher among BAME groups than the general population.

The analysis, published in Wellcome Open Research, used NHS data of patients with a positive Covid-19 test who died in hospitals in England from March 1st to April 21st and which included data on age, region and ethnicity.

The researchers analysed the ratio of observed deaths in the study group to expected deaths in the general population, accounting for age and regional differences in BAME populations.


The study found the average risk of dying in hospital from Covid-19 was around two to three times higher for BAME groups in England, when compared to the general population.

Disproportionately higher

Specifically, 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; and Indian was 1.7 times higher.

In contrast, researchers found a lower risk of death from Covid-19 for white populations in England.

After accounting for region and age, the risk of death for white British was 12 per cent lower than that of the general population and white Irish was 50 per cent lower.

Dr Delan Devakumar, who co-authored the research, said the analysis debunked the narrative that the coronavirus is an “equaliser” in society.

“Rather than being an equaliser, this work shows that mortality with Covid-19 is disproportionately higher in black, Asian and minority ethnic groups,” he said.

“It is essential to tackle the underlying social and economic risk factors and barriers to healthcare that lead to these unjust deaths.”

Co-author Dr Rob Aldridge said: “Our analyses show that several minority ethnic groups have a substantially higher risk of death from Covid-19 and that regional differences in where they live may explain some, but not all, of the differences between ethnic groups.

“After we took account of age and the geographical region for those people that died from Covid-19, there remained large differences in the risk of death between ethnic groups.

“White British and white Irish groups had a lower risk of death, but Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, black African and black Caribbean ethnic groups all had a substantially increased risk of death.”

Largest total

For the study period, the NHS data showed the total number people who had tested positive for Covid-19 and died was 16,272. Ethnicity was missing for 9.4 per cent of NHS England hospital deaths.

The largest total number of deaths in minority ethnic groups were Indian (492 deaths) and black Caribbean (460 deaths) people.

Dr Aldridge added: “Our findings support an urgent need to take action to reduce the risk of death from Covid-19 for BAME groups.

“Actions to reduce these inequities include ensuring an adequate income for everyone so that low paid and zero-hours contract workers can afford to follow social distancing recommendations, reducing occupational risks such as ensuring adequate PPE, reducing barriers to accessing healthcare and providing culturally and linguistically appropriate public health communications.”

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter