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Explaining the deprivation gap in COVID-19 mortality rates: A decomposition analysis of geographical inequalities in England

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  • Viviana Albani
  • Claire E. Welsh
  • Heather Brown
  • Fiona Matthews
  • Clare Bambra
Article number115319
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/10/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Social Science and Medicine
Number of pages11
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date8/09/22
<mark>Original language</mark>English


One of the most consistent and worrying features of the COVID-19 pandemic globally has been the disproportionate burden of the epidemic in the most deprived areas. Most of the literature so far though has focused on estimating the extent of these inequalities. There has been much less attention paid to exploring the main pathways underpinning them. In this study, we employ the syndemic pandemic theoretical framework and apply novel decomposition methods to investigate the proportion of the COVID-19 mortality gap by area-level deprivation in England during the first wave of the pandemic (January to July 2020) was accounted for by pre-existing inequalities in the compositional and contextual characteristics of place. We use a decomposition approach to explicitly quantify the independent contribution of four inequalities pathways (vulnerability, susceptibility, exposure and transmission) in explaining the more severe COVID-19 outcomes in the most deprived local authorities compared to the rest. We find that inequalities in transmission (73%) and in vulnerability (49%) factors explained the highest proportion of mortality by deprivation. Our results suggest that public health agencies need to develop short- and long-term strategies to alleviate these underlying inequalities in order to alleviate the more severe impacts on the most vulnerable communities.