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South African Journal of Science

On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353


JASSAT, Waasila et al. The intersection of age, sex, race and socioeconomic status in COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths in South Africa. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2022, vol.118, n.5-6, pp.1-14. ISSN 1996-7489.

Older age, male sex, and non-white race have been reported to be risk factors for COVID-19 mortality. Few studies have explored how these intersecting factors contribute to COVID-19 outcomes. This study aimed to compare demographic characteristics and trends in SARS-CoV-2 admissions and the health care they received. Hospital admission data were collected through DATCOV an active national COVID-19 surveillance programme. Descriptive analysis was used to compare admissions and deaths by age, sex, race, and health sector as a proxy for socio-economic status. COVID-19 mortality and healthcare utilisation were compared by race using random effect multivariable logistic regression models. On multivariable analysis, black African patients (adjusted OR [aOR] 1.3, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2, 1.3), coloured patients (aOR 1.2, 95% CI 1.1, 1.3), and patients of Indian descent (aOR 1.2, 95% CI 1.2, 1.3) had increased risk of in-hospital COVID-19 mortality compared to white patients; and admission in the public health sector (aOR 1.5, 95% CI 1.5, 1.6) was associated with increased risk of mortality compared to those in the private sector. There were higher percentages of COVID-19 hospitalised individuals treated in ICU, ventilated, and treated with supplemental oxygen in the private compared to the public sector. There were increased odds of non-white patients being treated in ICU or ventilated in the private sector, but decreased odds of black African patients being treated in ICU (aOR 0.5; 95% CI 0.4, 0.5) or ventilated (aOR 0.5; 95% CI 0.4, 0.6) compared to white patients in the public sector. These findings demonstrate the importance of collecting and analysing data on race and socio-economic status to ensure that disease control measures address the most vulnerable populations affected by COVID-19. SIGNIFICANCE: • These findings demonstrate the importance of collecting data on socio-economic status and race alongside age and sex, to identify the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19. • This study allows a better understanding of the pre-existing inequalities that predispose some groups to poor disease outcomes and yet more limited access to health interventions. • Interventions adapted for the most vulnerable populations are likely to be more effective. • The national government must provide efficient and inclusive non-discriminatory health services, and urgently improve access to ICU, ventilation and oxygen in the public sector. • Transformation of the healthcare system is long overdue, including narrowing the gap in resources between the private and public sectors.

Keywords : COVID-19; hospitalisation; mortality; race; age; sex; socio-economic status.

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