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Coronavirus: economic deprivation linked to increased risk of death

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London flats London boroughs accounted for 9 out of 10 of the highest numbers of deaths

People from socially deprived backgrounds are nearly twice as likely to have died of COVID-19, figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest.

In England, the age-standardised mortality rate of deaths involving COVID-19 in the most deprived areas was 128.3 deaths per 100,000 population; this was more than double the mortality rate in the least deprived areas (58.8 deaths per 100,000). The most deprived areas in Wales had a mortality rate for deaths involving COVID-19 of 109.5 deaths per 100,000 population, nearly twice as high as in the least deprived areas (57.5 deaths per 100,000 population).

‘COVID-19 is not a great leveller - the pandemic is having an unequal impact on our already unequal society. Today’s data show that people living in the most deprived areas of England are more than twice as likely to die as a result of COVID-19 than those in the least deprived,’ said Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive at the Health Foundation.

‘In February 2020 the Marmot Ten Years On report identified wide and growing levels of health inequality across England, particularly between North and South. Living in socioeconomically deprived areas is associated with poor health and a shorter life and the direct effect of COVID-19 is making these inequalities worse.’

Nine of the ten local authorities with the highest age-standardised mortality rates for deaths involving COVID-19 over this period were London boroughs; Brent had the highest overall age-standardised rate with 210.9 deaths per 100,000 population, followed by Newham (196.8 deaths per 100,000 population) and Hackney (182.9 deaths per 100,000 population).

‘The wider indirect effects of the pandemic on health - for example from foregone care for other conditions, and ill health resulting from economic insecurity - are likely to have a similar but longer lasting impact,’ added Dr Dixon.

‘As we recover from the pandemic and face considerable economic uncertainty, the Government has to get much more serious about protecting and improving the health of the population for the future. Much ill health is avoidable, and not tackling this will hamper economic recovery and attempts to level up. A cross-government strategy to improve health and reduce avoidable inequality is long overdue.’

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