Racialized people had higher mortality rates from COVID-19: Statistics Canada

By Kelly Geraldine Malone

A Statistics Canada study has found that some racialized populations in Canada had significantly higher mortality rates from COVID-19.

The analysis says the COVID-19 death rate was much higher for racialized people compared to non-racialized people. It found 31 deaths per 100,000 for racialized people and 22 deaths per 100,000 for the non-racialized population.

Black people had the highest mortality rate – more than two times higher than non-racialized residents. That was followed by those who identify as South Asians and Chinese.

However, those who were Chinese had a similar mortality rate to non-racialized people.

Across the Canadian population, men had higher mortality rates, but Black men were the highest at 62 deaths per 100,000 people. Black women also had a much higher mortality than their non-racialized counterparts.

Chinese women had the lowest mortality rate at 16 deaths per 100,000 people.

The study estimated COVID-19 mortality rates in Canada in 2020 and compared them with newly released census data from 2016. It also explored the effects of being low income on the mortality rate for racialized people after accounting for other risk factors such as age, sex and housing type.

Only South Asian, Chinese and Black people were analyzed due to sample size restrictions, the study said.

The study found a person’s socioeconomic situation played a role in COVID-19 deaths for all populations, except Chinese people. People in low income, overcrowded housing and apartments had higher odds of dying from COVID-19.

Income level had the highest effect on death rates for Black people. Death rates for low income Black people were almost three times higher compared to the rest of the Black population.

The study said its findings were consistent with others conducted in the United States and elsewhere which found more severe outcomes among racialized populations.

A study commissioned by the Black Coalition Against COVID in the U.S. found rates of infection, hospitalization and death were highest among Black Americans. That study said it was a result of structural and societal realities, including working front-line jobs, living in multi-generational homes and in more populated areas. Health inequalities, including higher rates of diabetes and chronic kidney disease, as well as racism and bias within the health-care system also play a role, that study said.

The Statistics Canada study said the relationship between low income, racialized populations and COVID-19 mortality could be explained by “multiple pathways.” Low income, unsuitable housing and less access to preventive health care can increase risk.

The study did not analyze the effect of COVID-19 on Indigenous people.

Race-based COVID-19 data released in Manitoba last year showed Indigenous people made up 17 per cent of COVID-19 infections, despite making up 13 per cent of the provincial population. The First Nations COVID-19 task force in the province found much higher rates of severe outcomes and death among that population throughout the pandemic.