J Epidemiol Community Health. 2023 Sep 12:jech-2023-220353. doi: 10.1136/jech-2023-220353. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: The social determinants of ethnic disparities in risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection during the first wave of the pandemic in the UK remain unclear.
METHODS: In May 2020, a total of 20 195 adults were recruited from the general population into the UK Biobank SARS-CoV-2 Serology Study. Between mid-May and mid-November 2020, participants provided monthly blood samples. At the end of the study, participants completed a questionnaire on social factors during different periods of the pandemic. Logistic regression yielded ORs for the association between ethnicity and SARS-CoV-2 immunoglobulin G antibodies (indicating prior infection) using blood samples collected in July 2020, immediately after the first wave.
RESULTS: After exclusions, 14 571 participants (mean age 56; 58% women) returned a blood sample in July, of whom 997 (7%) had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. Seropositivity was strongly related to ethnicity: compared with those of White ethnicity, ORs (adjusted for age and sex) for Black, South Asian, Chinese, Mixed and Other ethnic groups were 2.66 (95% CI 1.94-3.60), 1.66 (1.15-2.34), 0.99 (0.42-1.99), 1.42 (1.03-1.91) and 1.79 (1.27-2.47), respectively. Additional adjustment for social factors reduced the overall likelihood ratio statistics for ethnicity by two-thirds (67%; mostly from occupational factors and UK region of residence); more precise measurement of social factors may have further reduced the association.
CONCLUSIONS: This study identifies social factors that are likely to account for much of the ethnic disparities in SARS-CoV-2 infection during the first wave in the UK, and highlights the particular relevance of occupation and residential region in the pathway between ethnicity and SARS-CoV-2 infection.