Low income related to COVID-19 infections only among people with immigrant background, Finnish study finds

A new study shows that the previously observed link between low socioeconomic position and COVID-19 incidence is limited to people with an immigrant background.

In a recent study covering the total Finnish population aged 65 and younger, the link between low income and the risk of coronavirus infection was observed only among the population with immigrant backgrounds.

“This was a new and surprising finding because according to prior research, low socioeconomic position is a common risk factor for coronavirus infection. In our study, no such connection was observed in the native population,” says researcher Sanni Saarinen from the University of Helsinki.

Large families do not explain the high infection risk among people with an immigrant background

Low income and an immigrant background constitute a particularly vulnerable combination for COVID-19 infection risk. Previous international studies have suggested that this may be related to, for example, the vulnerable labour market position of the immigrant population and their difficulty of avoiding social contacts at work and at home.

“Large families and work and school exposures have been presumed to be an underlying factor, but based on our findings, they explain very little of the higher risk of contracting COVID-19 among people with low income and an immigrant background,” says researcher Heta Moustgaard from the University of Helsinki.

People with low income have a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19

The study also investigated the risk factors for developing severe COVID-19 among the infected. A greater risk of developing a severe disease was observed in people with low income, largely explained by their underlying diseases, poorer occupational status, and immigrant background.

Data on coronavirus infections were obtained from the Finnish National Infectious Diseases Register. Hospital stays of three days or more with a COVID-19 diagnosis were used as the indicator of severity. The study period covered the second wave of the pandemic, from July 2020 to February 2021.


Original article:

Income differences in COVID-19 incidence and severity in Finland among people with foreign and native background: A population-based cohort study of individuals nested within households.

Sanni Saarinen, Heta Moustgaard, Hanna Remes, Riikka Sallinen, Pekka Martikainen.

Further information:

Heta Moustgaard, University Researcher
+358 50 319 9387