The first wave of COVID-19 to hit Canada led to higher death rates in neighborhoods with more immigrants, lower-income families and older people, according to a new Statistics Canada study.
Across Canada, neighborhoods with a high proportion of seniors living in seniors’ residences, hospitals or long-term care homes have had the highest death rates.
“These neighborhoods collectively reported 148.4 deaths per 100,000 population in Canada,” noted Statistics Canada analysts Raj Subedi and Nicole Aitken, “which is almost six times higher than the type of neighborhood with the rates of lowest mortality.
The lowest death rates, meanwhile, were found in higher-income suburban communities, where residents tended to have higher education, lower unemployment rates, smaller family sizes and higher rates of owning their own home.
But in densely populated urban neighborhoods, high concentrations of immigrants, single-parent families and relatively low incomes have driven up COVID-19 death rates 2.6 times higher than in suburban neighborhoods across Canada.
In cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto, neighborhoods with large South and East Asian populations also tended to have higher COVID-19-related death rates.
The researchers said the high COVID-19 death rates in poorer urban neighborhoods may be due to higher infection and transmission rates driven by dense living and “relatively fewer open spaces and greenery”.
The risk of dying from COVID-19 was also likely due to some combination of adhering to public health restrictions and the fact that low-income households tend to work in occupations that require more contact with the public.
Men were found to have higher death rates from COVID-19 regardless of the neighborhood they lived in in 2020. In elderly or institutionalized populations, the death rate for men was 1.7 times higher than that of women.
The cause of this discrepancy is less clear, but the researchers speculate that it is a combination of differences in immune responses or that men are more likely to engage in risky habits such as smoking. or drink.
Among Canadian cities, the 2020 waves of the virus hit Montreal the hardest, resulting in death rates 2.7 times higher than the national average.
COVID-19 death rates in Toronto were 1.2 times higher than the national average, according to the study.
The researchers did not analyze other Canadian cities and how COVID-19 death rates hit neighborhoods differently. However, multiple outbreaks in long-term care homes resulted in dozens of deaths in 2020 as staff and management struggled to contain the virus. And reports from Glacier Media have documented how the virus can disproportionately impact low-income immigrant workers and their families when an outbreak hits a poultry factory at the start of the pandemic.
Statistics Canada hasn’t analyzed national mortality data since 2020 because it often takes a year to finalize, Subedi said.