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South Asian people are the most likely group to die from coronavirus after being admitted to hospital, a new study shows.
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.
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.
The study, led by scientists at the University of Edinburgh, used data from 30,693 people from 260 hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales from February 6 to May 8, with patient follow-up to May 22. It has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal.
It showed out of every 1,000 South Asian people admitted to hospital for Covid-19, 350 die – compared to 290 deaths for every 1,000 white people needing hospital treatment.
Researchers concluded: “Ethnic minorities in hospital with Covid-19 were more likely to be admitted to critical care and receive IMV (ventilation) than white people, 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.”
Prof Ewen Harrison, from the University of Edinburgh, told the BBC: “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.”
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).
After further adjusting for other factors such as deprivation and health, the ONS found people of Black ethnic background still had a mortality rate involving Covid-19 that was 2.0 times greater for males and 1.4 times greater for females compared with those of white ethnic background.
The data covers deaths that occurred in England and Wales between March 2 and May 15.
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.
Nick Stripe of the ONS said: “Analysis continues to show that people from a Black ethnic background are at a greater risk of death involving Covid-19 than all other ethnic groups.
“Adjusting for socio-economic factors and geographical location partly explains the increased risk, but there remains twice the risk for Black males and around one-and-a-half times for Black females. Significant differences also remain for Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Indian men.
“The ONS will continue to research this unexplained increased risk of death, examining the impact of other health conditions.”