Black men suffer highest coronavirus death rate in UK, government figures show

Mortality rate with Covid-19 three times higher for black males compared with white males, according to ONS findings on ethnicity

Adam Forrest
Friday 19 June 2020 10:50
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Tulip Siddiq demands 'concrete action' not 'empty rhetoric' on BAME deaths

Black men suffered the highest coronavirus death rate in the UK at the height of the pandemic, new government data shows.

The mortality rate involving Covid-19 from March to mid-May was highest among black men, at 255 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It was lowest among white men, at 87 deaths per 100,000.

For women, the pattern was similar. Black women had the highest rate (119 deaths per 100,000 people) and white women the lowest (52 deaths per 100,000).

“ONS analysis continues to show that people from a black ethnic background are at a greater risk of death involving Covid-19 than all other ethnic groups,” said statistician Nick Stripe, the head of life events at the ONS.

“The risk for black males has been more than three times higher than white males and nearly two and a half times higher for black females than white.”

Mr Stripe said socio-economic and geographical factors can partly explain the “increased risk”, but not entirely. For the first time, the ONS statisticians took into account population density, deprivation levels and working conditions.

Yet even after adjusting for these factors, “there remains twice the risk for black males and around one and a half times for black females” compared with white men and women.

The study on deaths by ethnicity also found that males of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian background in Britain also had a significantly higher risk of death involving the disease than white males.

“The ONS will continue to research this unexplained increased risk of death, examining the impact of other health conditions,” said Mr Stripe.

Veena Raleigh, senior fellow at The King’s Fund, said: “The latest grim statistics confirm that the burden of Covid-19 deaths still falls disproportionately on Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, as it does among the poorest in our society.

“It will require targeted public health interventions, and also deep structural and societal change to address the root issues – this has to be a clear focus for everyone in government and beyond.”

The ONS also looked at death rates by religious group, and found the risk of dying from Covid-19 was higher among those identifying as Muslims, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh than other religious groups.

The risk of dying from Covid-19 was highest among those identifying as Muslims – with 198 deaths per 100,000 males and 98 deaths per 100,000 females.

Harun Khan, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the figures “confirm what Muslim communities, academics and healthcare professionals have been saying for months – that we are dying of Covid at disproportionate rates, and that the root cause of this must be addressed in order to prevent the further unnecessary loss of life”.

The figures also suggest that those who identified as Jewish at the time of the 2011 census showed an increased risk of a death compared with the Christian population.

Jewish men had a mortality rate of 187 deaths per 100,000 people, which was roughly twice the risk of Christian men (92 deaths per 100,000). For Jewish women, the rate was 94 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 54 deaths per 100,000 for Christian women.

According to a separate study released today, South Asian people are the most likely group to die from Covid-19 after being admitted to hospital. Data showed a 19 per cent higher risk of death with coronavirus for those who are South Asian compared with white people.

Experts behind the University of Edinburgh study said 40 per cent of the South Asians in the group had diabetes, which was a “significant factor” in their increased risk of death.

Dr Ewen Harrison, professor of surgery and data science at the University of Edinburgh, who led the study, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “South Asian people look very different in hospital to other groups – in particular, white people.

“They’re younger, 12 years younger in average, less likely to have pre-existing conditions such as lung disease, dementia or obesity but much more likely to have diabetes.

“In fact, 40 per cent of the South Asians in hospital with Covid-19 have diabetes; we think this is quite a significant contributor to their increased likelihood of death.”

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