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Government Finds No Health Disparity Because of Race In the UK Despite Higher Covid Deaths In Ethnic Minority Groups

Government Finds No Health Disparity Because of Race In the UK Despite Higher Covid Deaths In Ethnic Minority Groups
3 min read

Ethnic minority groups were found to have better outcomes when it comes to life expectancy and causes of mortality than the white population, the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities has found.

Their report looked at the 25 leading causes of premature mortality as measured by years of life lost, and found that people from South Asian, Black and Chinese ethnic groups have better outcomes than White people in more than half of these.

"The Commission rejects the common view that ethnic minorities have universally worse health outcomes compared with White people, the picture is much more variable," the commission has concluded today. 

"This evidence clearly suggests that ethnicity is not the major driver of health inequalities in the UK but deprivation, geography and differential exposure to key risk factors," the report said. 

"Given that most ethnic minorities have higher levels of deprivation, compared with the White majority population, these health outcomes clearly suggest that deprivation is not destiny.

"More needs to be done to investigate why some ethnic minority groups are doing better than others, exploring whether it is due to differences in important risk factors, family structures, better social networks, or health behaviours such as drinking alcohol and smoking."

The report found that some ethnic groups were higher risk for many cancers, especially Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups. 

A separate report last summer found that Black people were four times more likely to die of Covid-19. New data has also shown that Covid vaccine rates are significantly lower for Black Brits, with distrust of the government and institutions believed to be a contributing factor. 

For Covid-19 and many other health conditions the report said there disparities were caused by a "complex interplay" of socio-economic, behavioural, cultural and, in some cases, genetic risk factors.

Although the number of deaths of White men fits overall with the proportion of the White male population, in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Black African men were almost 3.4 times more likely to die than White British men.

"This is mainly due to increased risk of infection – for example, geographical factors such as living in a densely populated inner-city area, socio-demographic characteristics (deprivation and occupation) living in larger and multi-generational households," the report claimed. 

"It is also partly due to poorer outcomes once infected due to comorbidities such as obesity, diabetes and chronic kidney disease."

On mental health, the report concluded there was no evidence of racial disparity however there was evidence of experiences of racism leading to poor mental health. 

It noted that Black people were eight times more likely to be subjected to community treatment orders than White people, and 4 times more likely to be detained. 

"Such disparity is often taken as evidence of racism. However, it must be benchmarked against disparity in the prevalence of mental illness," they said, pointing to study that showed a higher risk of diagnosed schizophrenia among ethnic minority groups, and that they were most pronounced among Black groups.

However they also referenced a report that showed mental ill health has little to do with genetic predisposition but rather is to do with adverse social circumstances, including "racism and hardship".

On the fact more black women than white women die in childbirth, the report said it would not be fair to discuss this topic without considering the low numbers involved. 

The report said "emotions" are quite rightly attached to the subject and maternal health outcomes came up regularly in discussions on health disparities.

"It is important that all involved in these conversations understand that highlighting this disparity without emphasising the low numbers overall, is unfair to expectant mothers everywhere," the report found.

A new Office for Health Disparities will be set up by the government to look at deprived communities and different ethnic groups, including White people.

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