Infectious Diseases

COVID-19 Mortality: World’s Largest Analysis Reveals Risk Factors

Posted on 11 May 2020

In the largest such study conducted in any country to date, academics at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine have analysed over 17 million COVID-19 patient records to better characterise the factors that put an individual at risk of dying from the disease. The study was published in the preprint journal medRxiv, and the main findings are as follows:

  • As has been previously established, death from COVID-19 is strongly associated with old age, being male, and various medical conditions such as severe asthma and diabetes.
  • Those with black or Asian ethnic origin were more at risk of death than white people, but contrary to what has previously been speculated, higher prevalence of medical conditions and being more likely to have a deprived background only accounted for a small part of this added risk.
  • People from deprived social backgrounds were also more at risk. Again, this was not fully explained by higher prevalence of medical conditions.
Williamson, E., Walker, A., Bhaskaran, K., Bacon, S., Bates, C., & Morton, C. et al. (2020). OpenSAFELY: factors associated with COVID-19-related hospital death in the linked electronic health records of 17 million adult NHS patients. doi: 10.1101/2020.05.06.20092999

Data from patients hospitalised with COVID-19 was linked with GP records via the OpenSAFELY analytics platform. This system allowed the records to be linked where they are stored for individual care, lowering the security risks associated with transferring the data elsewhere. All identifiable data remains in control of the NHS and is pseudonymised researchers are able to access it.

In light of the findings, the authors suggest the increased risk to those from non-white backgrounds and deprived areas requires further investigation. They suggest that exploring occupational exposure and living conditions may provide a starting point for further studies.


OpenSAFELY: factors associated with COVID-19-related hospital death in the linked electronic health records of 17 million adult NHS patients:

Risk factors for COVID-19 death revealed in world’s largest analysis of patient records to date:

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