The value of keeping ethnic ties: why adherence to recommended COVID-19 health behaviours differs among young adults

Using data from a unique survey of recent university graduates, Angus Holford, Renee Luthra and Adeline Delavande, researchers from the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change, provide new evidence on the role of strong ethnic ties in determining adherence to recommended health behaviours during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted all ethnicities equally in the UK: as early as three months into the first wave, evidence was mounting that non-White British people were much more likely to be hospitalised, and more than two times more likely to die, of COVID-19 than the white British majority, once age and geographical factors were taken into account.

Updated estimates at the end of last summer found this disadvantage had continued, and the Government continues to acknowledge the greater severity and mortality among minority groups in the UK, linking these risks to variation in the demographic, socioeconomic and underlying health vulnerabilities across different ethnic groups.

While socio-demographic factors explain some of the differences in COVID-19 impact across ethnic groups, substantial inequality remains even after occupation, household structure, age, sex, income geography and poverty are taken into account.

One other, as-yet unexplored, mechanism that may underlie ethnic differences in COVID-19 impact is the health behaviours practised by individuals themselves. If different ethnic groups have different levels of adherence to recommendations such as hand washing, mask wearing or maintaining social distance, this might explain some of the inequality we observe in COVID-19 impact.

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