Differential Effects of Race/Ethnicity and Social Vulnerability on COVID-19 Positivity, Hospitalization, and Death in the San Francisco Bay Area

Wendy K Tam Cho, David G Hwang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Higher COVID-19 incidence and morbidity have been documented for US Black and Hispanic populations but not as clearly for other racial and ethnic groups. Efforts to elucidate the mechanisms underlying racial health disparities can be confounded by the relationship between race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

OBJECTIVE: Examine race/ethnicity and social vulnerability effects on COVID-19 outcomes in the San Francisco Bay Area, an ethnically and socioeconomically diverse region, using geocoded patient records from 2020 in the University of California, San Francisco Health system.

KEY RESULTS: Higher social vulnerability, but not race/ethnicity, was associated with less frequent testing yet a higher likelihood of testing positive. Asian hospitalization rates (11.5%) were double that of White patients (5.4%) and exceeded the rates for Black (9.3%) and Hispanic patients (6.9%). A modest relationship between higher hospitalization rates and increasing social vulnerability was evident only for White patients. Hispanic patients had the highest years of expected life lost due to COVID-19.

CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 outcomes were not consistently explained by greater social vulnerability. Asian individuals showed disproportionately high rates of hospitalization regardless of social vulnerability status. Study of the San Francisco Bay Area population not only provides valuable insights into the differential contributions of race/ethnicity and social determinants of health to COVID-19 outcomes but also emphasizes that all racial groups have experienced the toll of the pandemic, albeit in different ways and to varying degrees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities
DOIs
StateE-pub ahead of print - Mar 3 2022

Keywords

  • Asian
  • Social vulnerability
  • Social determinants of health
  • Racial disparities
  • COVID-19

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Anthropology
  • Health Policy
  • Sociology and Political Science

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