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Research on the COVID-19 pandemic and health inequalities shows: We are not all in it together

16 December, 2020
Covid factsheet illustration

Evidence on the health, social, and economic impacts of COVID-19 shows that the pandemic is experienced unequally. While COVID-19 is usually thought of as a pandemic, it is in fact a syndemic pandemic – the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic is magnified by existing inequalities in chronic diseases and the social determinants of health.

The new CHAIN infographic The COVID-19 pandemic and health inequalities: We are not all in it together explains the latest research, and how it can be used to inform the policy, political, and social decisions needed in the coming months. 

Read the infographic here.

Built upon findings from Professor Clare Bambra from the Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research (CHAIN), the summary shows that increased levels of chronic diseases and inequalities in health determinants have led to higher infection and mortality rates in disadvantaged communities.

While COVID-19 puts everyone at risk, we see that some people are much more vulnerable than others. Our health and the conditions in which we live and work determine our exposure to the virus and the severity of its health outcomes. The current pandemic interacts with pre-existing disadvantages, such as chronic diseases or bad housing conditions, further increasing health inequalities.

Disadvantaged communities such as minority ethnic groups and people living in poverty face higher exposure to COVID-19. When infected, they are more likely to suffer severe health consequences than more advantaged groups. Factors such as housing and working conditions, access to healthcare, and risk of gender-based violence make that lockdowns have an unequal effect on physical and mental health as well.

The longer-term and largest consequences for health inequalities will be connected to political and economic choices made now. Evidence from the 2008 financial crises suggests that austerity measures and rising unemployment rates have worse health impacts on communities already facing disadvantage. To prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from increasing health inequalities for future generations, it is vital that the right public policy responses are undertaken now.

Click here to read the infographic (in English)

Italian version of the infographic

Norwegian version of the infographic


CHAIN is the Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research, which brings together researchers from all global regions and different research disciplines to advance the current state-of-the-art. It does this by offering new insights from social, laboratory-based and natural experiments into the causal mechanisms linking socioeconomic status and health. It brings together academia, the UN system, civil society and the private sector in a common organisational body to reduce the distance between research, policy and practice.

EuroHealthNet is a partner in CHAIN’s Global Health Inequalities project (2019-2025), which aspires to make CHAIN a world-leading centre and research network for the international study of global health inequalities.

More information and outputs

For more information on CHAIN and its outputs, click here.

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