Covid-19 hits hardest the most deprived

An analysis of about 9,000 cases of Covid-19 in different districts of Barcelona shows that the district with lower average income registered up to 2.5 times more incidence than the most privileged one.

Maria Grau, investigadora de l'IMIM, i José Miguel Baena-Díez. investigador de l'IDIAPJGol (Centre d'Atenció Primària La Marina), són els principals autors del treball.

Maria Grau, IMIM researcher, and José Miguel Baena-Díez, researcher at IDIAPJGol (Primary Health Care Center, La Marina), are the main authors of the article.

The pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has caused more than 760,000 deaths in the world, and about 30,000 in Spain – but it does not affect everyone in the same way. Once more, those with fewer resources are disproportionately affected.

According to a study led by Maria Grau, principal investigator and member of the Cardiovascular Epidemiology and Genetics Research Group of the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM), in Barcelona the Covid-19 has hit hardest the most empoverished neighbourhoods .

The team analysed the number of coronavirus infection cases in districts between February and April 2020 and compared them to average-income data. The results include a direct relationship between a lower income and a higher number of cases of COVID-19. Specifically, the district with the lowest income average, Nou Barris, registered during the epidemic peak an incidence of cases 2.5 times higher than the district with the highest income, Sarrià-Sant Gervasi.

Incidence of COVID-19 x 10.000 residents, adjusted by age and income. Source: IMIM.

“The results show that efforts to contain the epidemic cannot ignore equity problems in health matters,” says Grau, and adds “We have to make more effort in neighbourhoods with more vulnerable populations. It is necessary to ensure equal treatment opportunity, but also financial protection during this period. It is necessary to break the vicious circle between poverty and disease“.

Among the causes that would explain these results, there would be:

  • Work: Workers from the most affected neighbourhoods often cannot afford to stop working or telework. This forces them to travel to work on public transport, increasing the chances of contagion.
  • Housing: overcrowded or shared flats in the most affected districts, vbersus the availability of second residencies outside the city in the richest districts.

“This information can be very useful to plan the preventive actions in an even more efficient way, taking into account the socioeconomic reality of the different districts,” says Juan Pablo Horcajada, head of the infectious diseases service of the Hospital del Mar.

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