Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3992 | Published online: 19 Oct 2021

COVID-19 mortality across occupations and secondary risks for elderly individuals in the household: A population register-based study

by Billingsley S, Brandén M, Aradhya S, Drefahl S, Andersson G, Mussino E

Objectives This is the first population-level study to examine inequalities in COVID-19 mortality according to working-age individuals’ occupations and the indirect occupational effects on COVID-19 mortality of older individuals who live with them.

Methods We used early-release data for the entire population of Sweden of all recorded COVID-19 deaths from 12 March 2020 to 23 February 2021, which we linked to administrative registers and occupational measures. Cox proportional hazard models assessed relative risks of COVID-19 mortality for the working-aged population registered in an occupation in December 2018 and the older population who lived with them.

Results Among working aged-adults, taxi/bus drivers had the highest relative risk of COVID-19 mortality: over four times that of skilled workers in IT, economics, or administration when adjusted only for basic demographic characteristics. After adjusting for socioeconomic factors (education, income and country of birth), there are no occupational groups with clearly elevated (statistically significant) COVID-19 mortality. Neither a measure of exposure within occupations nor the share that generally can work from home were related to working-aged adults’ risk of COVID-19 mortality. Instead of occupational factors, traditional socioeconomic risk factors best explained variation in COVID-19 mortality. Elderly individuals, however, faced higher COVID-19 mortality risk both when living with a delivery or postal worker or worker(s) in occupations that generally work from home less, even when their socioeconomic factors are taken into account.

Conclusions Inequalities in COVID-19 mortality of working-aged adults were mostly based on traditional risk factors and not on occupational divisions or characteristics in Sweden. However, older individuals living with those who likely cannot work from home or work in delivery or postal services were a vulnerable group.

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