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Country of birth affects risk of dying in covid-19

Mikael Rostila, co-author of a new report from the Swedish Public Health Agency, appears at the national broadcaster SVT News, highlighting the disparity between residents born abroad and ethnic Swedes. Socio-economic factors such as low income and overcrowding are cited as the main reasons why those born abroad are hit harder.

Mikael Rostila, Professor in public health science at Stockholm University. Photo: Vilhelm Stokstad

The Public Health Agency has stated in a new report that country of birth greatly affects the risk or becoming gravely ill in COVID-19. Mikael Rostila, professor in public health science and one of the authors if the report, appeared at SVT News on Sunday, May 23rd.

Ever since the time of the plague, the poor have been more exposed during pandemics”, Mikael Rostila says.

So far, over 14,300 people have died of COVID-19 in Sweden. For people born in Africa, the risk is 3.4 times higher than for native-born Swedes, while the risk for people born in the Middle East is 2.8 times higher.

People born in Finland are also twice as likely to die from the disease compared to Swedish-born people. Only people born in the US appeared to have a lower risk of dying from COVID-19 than those born in Sweden.

One might instinctively think that viruses don’t discriminate, and everyone has the same risk of being infected. But with our social conditions, the opportunity to protect oneself is affected,” Mikael Rostila said.

Earlier in the pandemic, foreign-born residents of Sweden, mainly those born in Somalia and Iraq, were found to be overrepresented among COVID-19 patients. This dynamic was largely attributed to socio-economic issues such as cramped housing conditions, poverty, and inability to avoid jobs with high exposure.

Mikael Rostila hopes that the knowledge that groups have been affected differently during the pandemic can lead to change. "We must work more with this to avoid seeing similar patterns in the future", he concludes.

Link to STV Nyheter (in Swedish)