Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Background: Ethnic differences in the risk of severe COVID-19 may be linked to household composition. We quantified the association between household composition and risk of severe COVID-19 by ethnicity for older individuals. Methods: With the approval of NHS England, we analysed ethnic differences in the association between household composition and severe COVID-19 in people aged 67 or over in England. We defined households by number of age-based generations living together, and used multivariable Cox regression stratified by location and wave of the pandemic and accounted for age, sex, comorbidities, smoking, obesity, housing density and deprivation. We included 2 692 223 people over 67 years in Wave 1 (1 February 2020-31 August 2020) and 2 731 427 in Wave 2 (1 September 2020-31 January 2021). Results: Multigenerational living was associated with increased risk of severe COVID-19 for White and South Asian older people in both waves [e.g. Wave 2, 67+ living with three other generations vs 67+-year-olds only: White hazard ratio (HR) 1.61 95% CI 1.38-1.87, South Asian HR 1.76 95% CI 1.48-2.10], with a trend for increased risks of severe COVID-19 with increasing generations in Wave 2. There was also an increased risk of severe COVID-19 in Wave 1 associated with living alone for White (HR 1.35 95% CI 1.30-1.41), South Asian (HR 1.47 95% CI 1.18-1.84) and Other (HR 1.72 95% CI 0.99-2.97) ethnicities, an effect that persisted for White older people in Wave 2. Conclusions: Both multigenerational living and living alone were associated with severe COVID-19 in older adults. Older South Asian people are over-represented within multigenerational households in England, especially in the most deprived settings, whereas a substantial proportion of White older people live alone. The number of generations in a household, number of occupants, ethnicity and deprivation status are important considerations in the continued roll-out of COVID-19 vaccination and targeting of interventions for future pandemics.

Original publication




Journal article


International Journal of Epidemiology

Publication Date





1745 - 1760