Social Justice

Long Covid cases 50% higher in most deprived households than in the richest

New data highlights growing health inequalities in the UK, with long Covid affecting poorer areas more than wealthier areas.

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The north west of England had one of the highest rates of long Covid. Image: Pixabay

Long Covid cases are almost 50 per cent higher in the most deprived households than in the richest, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. 

The latest data reveals that long Covid cases have climbed to 1.8 million in total across the UK, with poorer people disproportionately impacted. 

Chris Thomas of the Institute for Public Policy Research’s (IPPR) Commission on Health and Prosperity said the figures showed the virus was “compounding” the injustice of Britain’s health inequalities.

The data comes after ONS figures released in January showed the poorest long Covid sufferers are being denied access to specialist clinics for treatment – accounting for just one in five patients across the country. 

The latest stats, taken from the UK Coronavirus (Covid-19) Infection Survey data, show long Covid cases are highest in the most deprived group, as measured by the Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD).

The IMD is the official measure of deprivation in the UK, and is calculated using different indicators such as income, education and health. Areas are awarded a ranking of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most deprived and 5 being the least.

While 3.58 of households in the most deprived group reported long Covid symptoms in the month up to April 3, just just 2.4 per cent in the least deprived group reported symptoms – a difference of 49 per cent. 

The northern regions of England, including the north-east, the north-west and Yorkshire and the Humber, had the highest rates of long Covid, with more than 3 per cent of the population reporting symptoms in each region.

London had the lowest rate, with 2.08 per cent of respondents reporting symptoms. 

The data also looked at the number of patients in different occupations, finding the highest number of cases among social care workers – at 5.03 per cent.

It backs up ongoing concerns about widening health inequality in the UK, with figures released in April showing men born in the poorest areas of the country are now expected to live almost 10 years fewer than those living in the richest areas, with a gap of eight years for women.

Northern authorities such as Blackpool and Knowsley are home to the lowest life expectancy rates in the country. 

Long Covid symptoms can range from dizziness to brain fog and tiredness, and can last for months or even years. 

Some patients have suffered from debilitating symptoms and have been forced to give up their jobs or cut their hours of work as a result.

Thomas of the IPPR added: “People living in the most deprived parts of our country can already expect to live much shorter and less healthy lives. Today’s data shows that long Covid – a condition for which there is next to no government support – is compounding this injustice. 

“Allowing long Covid to ravage the country, particularly in more deprived areas, will have severe consequences. This includes the human impact of 1.8 million disrupted lives, but also the economic impact on people’s ability to find, stay in and get on at work – undermining the UK’s already fragile labour market.

“A fairer country is a healthier one, and a healthier country is a more prosperous one. We urge ministers to do more to protect our lives and livelihoods, on that basis”

A government spokesperson said:

“The Secretary of State has been clear that tackling health disparities is a priority and to do that we have to focus on the people and places who face the worst health outcomes.

“Our Health Disparities White Paper, due later this year, will set out bold action to reduce the gap in health outcomes between different places, so that people’s backgrounds do not dictate their prospects for a healthy life.

“The NHS has committed £224 million to support people with long Covid, with 90 sites in England offering specialist services for adults, children and young people.”

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