Area level deprivation and monthly COVID-19 cases: The impact of government policy in England

Karyn Morrissey*, Fiona Spooner, James Salter, Gavin Shaddick

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper aims to understand the relationship between area level deprivation and monthly COVID-19 cases in England in response to government policy throughout 2020. The response variable is monthly reported COVID-19 cases at the Middle Super Output Area (MSOA) level by Public Health England, with Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD), ethnicity (percentage of the population across 5 ethnicity categories) and the percentage of the population older than 70 years old and time as predictors. A GEE population-averaged panel-data model was employed to model trends in monthly COVID-19 cases with the population of each MSOA included as the exposure variable. Area level deprivation is significantly associated with COVID-19 cases from March 2020; however, this relationship is reversed in December 2020. Follow up analysis found that this reversal was maintained when controlling for the novel COVID-19 variant outbreak in the South East of England. This analysis indicates that changes in the role of deprivation and monthly reported COVID-19 over time cases may be linked to two government policies: (1) the premature easing of national restrictions in July 2020 when cases were still high in the most deprived areas in England and (2) the introduction of a regional tiered system in October predominantly in the North of England. The analysis adds to the evidence showing that deprivation is a key driver of COVID-19 outcomes and highlights the unintended negative impact of government policy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number114413
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • COVID-19 cases
  • Deprivation
  • Panel data analysis
  • Government policy
  • England


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