New study reveals South Asian people most likely to die from Coronavirus, diabetic people are considered vulnerable

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LONDON: Despite the effects of Covid-19 pandemic are going down with the passage of time, a new study reveals that South Asian people are the most likely group to die from Covid-19 after being admitted to hospital across the UK.

The study showed South Asian people had a 19% higher chance of dying in hospital in the UK from Covid-19 than white people. Other minority ethnic groups were not shown to have a higher death rate. Researchers believe diabetes played a “significant factor” in the increased risk of death – 40% of the South Asian hospital patients had diabetes of some form, compared with 25% of white groups.

Dr Ewen Harrison

Data from 30,693 people admitted to 260 hospitals found a 19% increased risk of death with coronavirus for those who were South Asian compared with white people. Experts behind the study said 40% of the South Asians in the group had diabetes – which was a “significant factor” in their increased risk of death.

The data was taken from hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales from February 6 to May 8, with patient follow-up to May 22. The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal, included 1,388 people of South Asian background (5% of the total group), 266 who were East Asian (1%), 1,094 who were black (4%), 2,398 who were other ethnic minority (8%) and 25,547 who were white (83%).

Ethnic minorities were younger and more likely to have diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) but had fewer other underlying health conditions such as chronic heart disease or dementia than people who were white. No difference was seen between ethnic groups when it came to the severity of illness on admission to hospital.

People who were South Asian were 28% more likely to be admitted to critical care, as were those who were black (36% increased risk), compared with those who were white, the study found. This held true even when age, sex and place of admission were taken into account, and the impact of deprivation. The results showed that those who were South Asian were 19% more likely to die with coronavirus, while those who were black were 5% more likely to die, and other ethnic minorities had no higher risk compared with white people.

The researchers, from the University of Edinburgh, concluded: “Ethnic minorities in hospital with Covid-19 were more likely to be admitted to critical care and receive IMV (ventilation) than whites, despite similar disease severity on admission, similar duration of symptoms, and being younger with fewer comorbidities.”South Asians are at greater risk of dying, due at least in part to a higher prevalence of pre-existing diabetes.”

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% 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,” he added. Diabetes can make a person more vulnerable to being infected with coronavirus as well as dying from it, as it can cause some internal organs to become compromised.

Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published on Friday showed Black men are still most likely to die from coronavirus in England and Wales, after adjusting for age. The mortality rate for deaths involving Covid-19 was highest among Black males (255.7 deaths per 100,000 population) and lowest among white males (87.0 deaths per 100,000).

For females, the pattern was similar with the highest rates among those of Black ethnic background (119.8 deaths per 100,000) and lowest among those of white ethnic background (52.0 per 100,000).

Males of Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian ethnic background also had a significantly higher risk of death involving Covid-19 (1.5 and 1.6 times respectively) than white males, the ONS found.

For females in Bangladeshi or Pakistani, Indian, Chinese and mixed ethnic groups, the risk of death involving Covid-19 was equivalent to white females.