Study: Labor, Retail and Service Workers Experienced 68% of Deaths in First Year of COVID-19 Pandemic

A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health shows that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significantly worse impact on adults in low socioeconomic positions (SEP) employed in labor, service and retail jobs. The study analyzed nearly 70,000 adults between the ages of 25 and 64, when they died from COVID-19.

The study found that the mortality rate of adults with low SEP was five times higher than those with high SEP. White women, for instance, make up the largest percentage of the high SEP and Hispanic men are more likely to have a low SEP. This meant that the mortality rate for low SEP Hispanic men was 27 times higher than the rate for high SEP White women.

"The degree to which it takes a toll on communities is very unevenly distributed and we wanted to call attention to that issue," said University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi, who launched the study in conjunction with the COVKID Project using data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. The data covers the first year of the pandemic, 2020.

The study found hazardous conditions in the workplace, including working in close proximity with others and the public and work that required on-site attendance.

"If we were to immediately heed the calls to return to 'normal' and stop worrying about community spread of the virus, there are certain subsets and members of our community who are going to suffer way more so than other members—and these people have already borne the disproportionate brunt of this pandemic," said Salemi.

According to Salemi, the plan is to expand the study with data from 2021 and beyond.