Severe mental illness, race/ethnicity, multimorbidity and mortality following COVID-19 infection: nationally representative cohort study

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BACKGROUND: The association of COVID-19 with death in people with severe mental illness (SMI), and associations with multimorbidity and ethnicity, are unclear. AIMS: To determine all-cause mortality in people with SMI following COVID-19 infection, and assess whether excess mortality is affected by multimorbidity or ethnicity. METHOD: This was a retrospective cohort study using primary care data from the Clinical Practice Research Database, from February 2020 to April 2021. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to estimate the effect of SMI on all-cause mortality during the first two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. RESULTS: Among 7146 people with SMI (56% female), there was a higher prevalence of multimorbidity compared with the non-SMI control group (n = 653 024, 55% female). Following COVID-19 infection, the SMI group experienced a greater risk of death compared with controls (adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) 1.53, 95% CI 1.39-1.68). Black Caribbean/Black African people were more likely to die from COVID-19 compared with White people (aHR = 1.22, 95% CI 1.12-1.34), with similar associations in the SMI group and non-SMI group (P for interaction = 0.73). Following infection with COVID-19, for every additional multimorbidity condition, the aHR for death was 1.06 (95% CI 1.01-1.10) in the SMI stratum and 1.16 (95% CI 1.15-1.17) in the non-SMI stratum (P for interaction = 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Following COVID-19 infection, patients with SMI were at an elevated risk of death, further magnified by multimorbidity. Black Caribbean/Black African people had a higher risk of death from COVID-19 than White people, and this inequity was similar for the SMI group and the control group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)518-525
Number of pages8
JournalThe British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2023


  • COVID-19
  • ethnicity
  • Mortality
  • multimorbidity
  • severe mental illness

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