Impact of sociodemographic and economic determinants of health on COVID-19 infection: incidence variation between reference periods

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Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic hit Portugal in March 2020, causing widespread disruption to various aspects of society. While extensive research has been conducted on the significance of socio-economic disparities in infection risk, this study aims to enhance our understanding of their evolving relationship over time by analysing four distinct periods in 2020. Study design and methods: This retrospective observational ecological study included individuals residing in the Primary Healthcare Cluster areas of Almada-Seixal and Western Lisbon and Oeiras, who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 through a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test between the 2nd of March and the 8th of November of 2020. Using incidence rates for each specific neighbourhood (n = 29) and period, we explored the relationship between neighbourhood-level socio-economic variables and the risk of infection using negative-binomial regression models. Results: In the analysed period, a total of 8562 confirmed COVID-19 cases were identified. Overall incidence rates for each period were sequentially 2.74, 5.03, 3.99 and 14.29 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 person-days. Housing overcrowding, illiteracy rate and place of birth were associated with increased risk of infection, while age, congregate living, and employment in the secondary sector exhibited the opposite association. No association was consistent across all time periods. Conclusions: Our findings support the idea that the influence of socio-economic determinants of health is not immutable throughout time. In a pandemic context where information, knowledge, beliefs, and behaviours are ever-changing and evolving, a dynamic, inclusive, and adaptable approach to disease control can lead to a more equitable distribution of improved outcomes, benefiting all strata of society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-310
Number of pages6
JournalPublic Health
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • COVID-19
  • Epidemiology
  • Infection risk
  • Portugal
  • Socio-economic determinants of health


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