The impact of COVID-19

Our work on the impact of COVID-19 within Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities

It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences are having a disproportionate impact on Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funded studies, for example ISARIC 4C, played a significant role in highlighting this issue, and we are funding research and innovation that is not only investigating the causes and impact but also bringing about solutions.

Investigating higher mortality rates within minority ethnic groups

After taking account of age and other socio-demographic factors, emerging evidence shows that Black, Asian and minority ethnic people are nearly twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as white people.

To address the urgent need for more detailed data on this, we have teamed up with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to fund six new research projects investigating the association between ethnicity and adverse outcomes.

Researchers are also collaborating with UK Biobank on correlations between biological, behavioural and socio-economic factors which may explain why COVID-19 affects different ethnic groups with varying severity.

Newly-funded research at the University of Leicester will also use the UK Biobank cohort to examine whether the increased risk of developing severe COVID-19 in minority ethnic groups is explained by differences in underlying health status, lifestyle behaviours and environmental factors.

The University of Aberdeen will lead on a project called the INCLUDE Ethnicity Framework. It will enable designers of clinical trials to consider factors that may reduce the inclusion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic participants.

Factors affecting ethnic minority groups during COVID-19

UK researchers are to dig deeper into the reasons why people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Four projects, funded by UKRI via the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to a total of £4.5 million, will place the social, cultural and economic impacts of COVID-19 under the lens. Their aim is to better understand how and why these groups have been disproportionately impacted, both by direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic.

Impacts on ethnic minority healthcare workers

Reports have shown that adverse working conditions (PDF, 500KB) already experienced by people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds who work in health and social care have worsened since the outbreak.

A study at King’s College London, funded by ESRC, aims to identify and address these ethnic disparities.

A study at the University of Leeds will consider the design of human resource management practices to improve the wellbeing of healthcare workers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in the context of COVID-19.

NURSING NARRATIVES: racism and the pandemic is a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), using a Critical Race Theory framework and an arts-based approach that centres on emotion as a resource for memory and recovery.

Mental health during the pandemic

UKRI-funded study by scientists from University College London has noted that levels of depression and anxiety during lockdown are much higher among those from ethnic minority backgrounds than white ethnic groups.

Reports of loneliness during lockdown are reported as being almost 10% higher among those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, while thoughts of death have been almost a third higher than reported by white groups.

A nationwide study, funded by AHRC, will test how music and art can alleviate isolation and loneliness while boosting wellbeing in people living with dementia in care home settings. Called ‘Culture-Box’ it will look particularly at those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic populations during COVID-19 restrictions.

The study will also share information on virus transmission to protect the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly focused on areas of socio-economic deprivation and amongst Black, Asian and minority ethnic populations.

Local and regional communication

To lessen the disproportionate impact of COVID-19, doctors from the Royal Surrey County Hospital are designing culturally specific health messages for Black and South Asian communities.

We are funding this project, which aims to control the spread of COVID-19 within these communities by using trusted communication channels. Researchers will work with local groups and community leaders to create culturally appropriate information encouraging behaviour that reduces the transmission of COVID-19.

In addition, a project funded by ESRC at King’s College London will explore the psychological drivers and impact of public health communications on vaccination beliefs of minority ethnic groups.

The effects of COVID-19 on income and the economy

COVID-19 has placed a strain on many peoples’ finances, while creating new pressures on financial institutions. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (which includes ESRC’s Centre for the Microeconomic Analysis of Public Policy), the number of people in debt is likely to increase significantly. This is being felt more severely in economically vulnerable demographic groups, such as small businesses and minority ethnic populations.

As part of our work on this, Innovate UK has provided funding to help One Africa Network cope with changes that COVID-19 has forced on its operating model. One Africa Network is a social development initiative that supports Black and African entrepreneurs and small businesses in the Midlands.

Exploring racial and ethnic inequality in a time of crisis

The ESRC Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity (CoDE) has responded to the crisis with a project that will explore racial and ethnic inequalities in three broad and inter-related areas: economic, cultural and political.

Last updated: 1 September 2022

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