Pensioners 34 times more likely to die of Covid-19 than working age Brits, data shows

Death rate among working population is relatively low but risk varies by gender, ethnicity, class and ‘exposure to people’

Those who are in contact with the public, such as bus drivers, have an increased risk among the working population.




Those who are in contact with the public, such as bus drivers, have an increased risk among the working population.
Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

As Britain edges back to work and employees consider the risks of moving beyond lockdown, official figures underscore that working age Britons are 34 times less likely to die of coronavirus than the over 65s.

Around 12% of all deaths due to Covid-19 have occurred among those under 65 – a total of 4,066 deaths. Most victims have been in the over-65 category, accounting for 30,978 fatalities.

There have been 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people among the under-65 category, which rises to 286 deaths per 100,000 in the over-65 group, meaning pensioners are 34 times more likely to die of the illness.

The contrast is even starker in data concerning those under 45. According to the Office for National Statistics figure, there have been just 401 deaths in this age group – one death for every 100,000 people, or around 1% of the overall death toll.

However, age is just one of the factors that will affect a person’s vulnerability to the virus. Research has shown that ethnicity, deprivation, pre-existing health conditions and occupation also contribute to an individual’s risk of dying.

covid death by age bands

The death rate among the working population differs by gender. The death rate for men is 9.9 per 100,000 people and 5.2 per 100,000 women. This may also be driven by the death rate in particular occupations, as some workers appear to be more vulnerable depending on exposure to the virus.

Death rates among some minority ethnic groups are also disproportionately high, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It found the death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals was more than 2.5 times that of the white population. Guardian reporting also found that areas with high BAME populations tended to have higher death rates.

New data released by the ONS on Monday showed for the first time that people in low-paid manual jobs were at much greater risk of dying from Covid-19.

Men in low-paid jobs were almost four times more likely to die from coronavirus than professionals, with 21.4 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 5.6 among white-collar male workers, according to the analysis.

Jobs which were found to have high death rates included security guards, care workers, construction workers, plant operatives, cleaners, taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs and retail workers.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Neil Pearce, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The observations are almost certainly due to … exposure to people. It is also well-known that working-class men and women have poorer health than more wealthy people. But here we see the excess specifically in the working class jobs that involve contact with the public.

“For example, taxi and bus drivers (who have contact with the public) have very high Covid-19 death rates, whereas heavy truck drivers (who mostly don’t have public contact) don’t have high rates.”

The death rate among the working population is relatively low, but of those who have died so far data shows the deaths have been unevenly distributed.