Joint study finds that rural dwellers and people living in public housing experienced higher rates of hospitalisation following pandemic

Joint study finds that rural dwellers and people living in public housing experienced higher rates of hospitalisation following pandemic

Dr Jean Dwyer, who is an environmental scientist in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UCC.

A joint study by University College Cork and Technological University Dublin has found that rural dwellers in Ireland and those living in public housing were among the hardest hit by Covid-19.

The study found that residents in those areas across Ireland experienced higher rates of hospitalisation.

"Monitoring the clinical outcomes of patients diagnosed with Covid-19 is vital to understand the epidemiological and healthcare burden of SARSCoV-2, to help prioritise high-risk cases in the short term, and perhaps more importantly, provide a robust evidence-base for future public health emergency planning,” said Dr Jean Dwyer, an environmental scientist in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UCC.

Dr Dwyer is the Co-Principal Investigator of the study along with Dr Paul Hynds from TU Dublin.

The study published in Nature Scientific Reports examined the age, gender, regional socio-economic status, and urban/rural classification of symptomatic Covid-19 patients in Ireland through to hospitalisation, intensive care, and death.

Close to 50,000 cases of Covid-19 in Ireland's first two waves of the pandemic were analysed, with the study creating the first socio-economic picture of who, and where in Ireland were the most impacted during the pandemic.

The pioneering analysis shows that from a socio-geographic/economic perspective, patients living in categorically rural areas and in regions characterised by higher rates of local authority housing were also at increased risk of hospitalisation.

While residents in categorically rural areas were associated with a higher likelihood of hospitalisation, the opposite was true for admission to ICU, whereby urban dwellers were approximately 1.5 times more likely to require critical care.

Urban living may be indicative of multiple individuals or interacting factors including higher levels of deprivation, higher viral exposures due to increased household and/or local population density or compounded respiratory illnesses due to lower air quality in urban areas, the study noted.

The research also showed that men were approximately 1.5 times more likely to be hospitalised, admitted to ICU, or die, than women.

The analysis highlighted that a review of the sex and gender-related differences associated with Covid-19 outcomes in Europe proposes numerous potential reasons for this relationship, including gender-specific lifestyle, health behaviours, psychological stress, and socioeconomic conditions, in addition to several sex-specific biological mechanisms modulating the course of disease, including hormone-regulated gene expression, innate and adaptive immune responses, and immune-ageing.

The study outlined how there is a strong evidence base to suggest that upon infection with SARS-CoV-2, females may be better equipped to initially respond, and reduce viral invasion and pathogenicity compared to males.

The study was funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI). The researchers highlight how the findings will help provide robust evidence for the development of increasingly targeted public-health recommendations.

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